BACKGROUND: Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common malignant brain tumor, and glioma stem cells (GSCs) are considered a major source of treatment resistance for glioblastoma. Identifying new compounds that inhibit the growth of GSCs and understanding their underlying molecular mechanisms are therefore important for developing novel therapy for GBM. METHODS: We investigated the potential inhibitory effect of isorhapontigenin (ISO), an anticancer compound identified in our recent investigations, on anchorage-independent growth of patient-derived glioblastoma spheres (PDGS) and its mechanism of action. RESULTS: ISO treatment resulted in significant anchorage-independent growth inhibition, accompanied with cell cycle G0-G1 arrest and cyclin D1 protein downregulation in PDGS. Further studies established that cyclin D1 was downregulated by ISO at transcription levels in a SOX2-dependent manner. In addition, ISO attenuated SOX2 expression by specific induction of miR-145, which in turn suppressed 3'UTR activity of SOX2 mRNA without affecting its mRNA stability. Moreover, ectopic expression of exogenous SOX2 rendered D456 cells resistant to induction of cell cycle G0-G1 arrest and anchorage-independent growth inhibition upon ISO treatment, whereas inhibition of miR-145 resulted in D456 cells resistant to ISO inhibition of SOX2 and cyclin D1 expression. In addition, overexpression of miR-145 mimicked ISO treatment in D456 cells. CONCLUSIONS: ISO induces miR-145 expression, which binds to the SOX2 mRNA 3'UTR region and inhibits SOX2 protein translation. Inhibition of SOX2 leads to cyclin D1 downregulation and PDGS anchorage-independent growth inhibition. The elucidation of the miR-145/SOX2/cyclin D1 axis in PDGS provides a significant insight into understanding the anti-GBM effect of ISO compound.