Tumor hypoxia is an established facilitator of survival adaptation and mesenchymal transformation in glioblastoma (GBM). The underlying mechanisms that direct hypoxia-mediated survival in GBM habitats are unclear. We previously identified BIRC3 as a mediator of therapeutic resistance in GBM to standard temozolomide (TMZ) chemotherapy and radiotherapy (RT). Here we report that BIRC3 is a biomarker of the hypoxia-mediated adaptive mesenchymal phenotype of GBM. Specifically, in the TCGA dataset elevated BIRC3 gene expression was identified as a superior and selective biomarker of mesenchymal GBM versus neural, proneural and classical subtypes. Further, BIRC3 protein was highly expressed in the tumor cell niches compared to the perivascular niche across multiple regions in GBM patient tissue microarrays. Tumor hypoxia was found to mechanistically induce BIRC3 expression through HIF1-alpha signaling in GBM cells. Moreover, in human GBM xenografts robust BIRC3 expression was noted within hypoxic regions of the tumor. Importantly, selective inhibition of BIRC3 reversed therapeutic resistance of GBM cells to RT in hypoxic microenvironments through enhanced activation of caspases. Collectively, we have uncovered a novel role for BIRC3 as a targetable biomarker and mediator of hypoxia-driven habitats in GBM.
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