The effects of nutrient depleted microenvironments and delta-like 1 homologue (DLK1) on apoptosis in neuroblastoma

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The tumor microenvironment, particularly sufficient nutrition and oxygen supply, is important for tumor cell survival. Nutrition deprivation causes cancer cell death. Since apoptosis is a major mechanism of neuronal loss, we explored neuronal apoptosis in various microenvironment conditions employing neuroblastoma (NB) cells. To investigate the effects of tumor malignancy and differentiation on apoptosis, the cells were exposed to poor microenvironments characterized as serum-free, low-glucose, and hypoxia. Incubation of the cells in serum-free and low-glucose environments significantly increased apoptosis in less malignant and more differentiated N-type IMR32 cells, whereas more malignant and less differentiated I-type BE(2)C cells were not affected by those treatments. In contrast, hypoxia (1% O2) did not affect apoptosis despite cell malignancy. It is suggested that DLK1 constitutes an important stem cell pathway for regulating self-renewal, clonogenicity, and tumorigenicity. This raises questions about the role of DLK1 in the cellular resistance of cancer cells under poor microenvironments, which cancer cells normally encounter. In the present study, DLK1 overexpression resulted in marked protection from apoptosis induced by nutrient deprivation. This in vitro model demonstrated that increasing severity of nutrition deprivation and knock-down of DLK1 caused greater apoptotic death, which could be a useful strategy for targeted therapies in fighting NB as well as for evaluating how nutrient deprived cells respond to therapeutic manipulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-461
Number of pages7
JournalNutrition Research and Practice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2010


  • Apoptosis
  • DLK1
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Nutrient deprivation


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