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Neuronal-glial relationships play a critical role in the maintenance of central nervous system architecture and neuronal specification. A deeper understanding of these relationships can elucidate cellular cross-talk capable of sustaining proper development of neural tissues. In the cerebellum, cerebellar granule neuron precursors (CGNPs) proliferate in response to Purkinje neuron-derived Sonic hedgehog (Shh) before ultimately exiting the cell cycle and migrating radially along Bergmann glial fibers. However, the function of Bergmann glia in CGNP proliferation remains not well defined. Interestingly, the Hh pathway is also activated in Bergmann glia, but the role of Shh signaling in these cells is unknown. In this study, we show that specific ablation of Shh signaling using the tamoxifen-inducible TNC line to eliminate Shh pathway activator Smoothened in Bergmann glia is sufficient to cause severe cerebellar hypoplasia and a significant reduction in CGNP proliferation. TNC; Smo (Smo) mice demonstrate an obvious reduction in cerebellar size within two days of ablation of Shh signaling. Mutant cerebella have severely reduced proliferation and increased differentiation of CGNPs due to a significant decrease in Shh activity and concomitant activation of Wnt signaling in Smo CGNPs, suggesting that this pathway is involved in cross-talk with the Shh pathway in regulating CGNP proliferation. In addition, Purkinje cells are ectopically located, their dendrites stunted, and the Bergmann glial network disorganized. Collectively, these data demonstrate a previously unappreciated role for Bergmann glial Shh signaling activity in the proliferation of CGNPs and proper maintenance of cerebellar architecture.
Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The SMOOTHENED inhibitor vismodegib is FDA approved for advanced basal cell carcinoma (BCC), and shows promise in clinical trials for SONIC HEDGEHOG (SHH)-subgroup medulloblastoma (MB) patients. Clinical experience with BCC patients shows that continuous exposure to vismodegib is necessary to prevent tumor recurrence, suggesting the existence of a vismodegib-resistant reservoir of tumor-propagating cells. We isolated such tumor-propagating cells from a mouse model of SHH-subgroup MB and grew them as sphere cultures. These cultures were enriched for the MB progenitor marker SOX2 and formed tumors in vivo. Moreover, while their ability to self-renew was resistant to SHH inhibitors, as has been previously suggested, this self-renewal was instead WNT-dependent. We show here that loss of Trp53 activates canonical WNT signaling in these SOX2-enriched cultures. Importantly, a small molecule WNT inhibitor was able to reduce the propagation and growth of SHH-subgroup MB in vivo, in an on-target manner, leading to increased survival. Our results imply that the tumor-propagating cells driving the growth of bulk SHH-dependent MB are themselves WNT dependent. Further, our data suggest combination therapy with WNT and SHH inhibitors as a therapeutic strategy in patients with SHH-subgroup MB, in order to decrease the tumor recurrence commonly observed in patients treated with vismodegib.
High-level amplification of the protein phosphatase PPM1D (WIP1) is present in a subset of medulloblastomas (MBs) that have an expression profile consistent with active Sonic Hedgehog (SHH) signaling. We found that WIP1 overexpression increased expression of Shh target genes and cell proliferation in response to Shh stimulation in NIH3T3 and cerebellar granule neuron precursor cells in a p53-independent manner. Thus, we developed a mouse in which WIP1 is expressed in the developing brain under control of the Neurod2 promoter (ND2:WIP1). The external granule layer (EGL) in early postnatal ND2:WIP1 mice exhibited increased proliferation and expression of Shh downstream targets. MB incidence increased and survival decreased when ND2:WIP1 mice were crossed with an Shh-activated MB mouse model. Conversely, Wip1 knockout significantly suppressed MB formation in two independent mouse models of Shh-activated MB. Furthermore, Wip1 knockdown or treatment with a WIP1 inhibitor suppressed the effects of Shh stimulation and potentiated the growth inhibitory effects of SHH pathway-inhibiting drugs in Shh-activated MB cells in vitro. This suggests an important cross-talk between SHH and WIP1 pathways that accelerates tumorigenesis and supports WIP1 inhibition as a potential treatment strategy for MB.
Medulloblastoma is a highly malignant paediatric brain tumour, often inflicting devastating consequences on the developing child. Genomic studies have revealed four distinct molecular subgroups with divergent biology and clinical behaviour. An understanding of the regulatory circuitry governing the transcriptional landscapes of medulloblastoma subgroups, and how this relates to their respective developmental origins, is lacking. Here, using H3K27ac and BRD4 chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by sequencing (ChIP-seq) coupled with tissue-matched DNA methylation and transcriptome data, we describe the active cis-regulatory landscape across 28 primary medulloblastoma specimens. Analysis of differentially regulated enhancers and super-enhancers reinforced inter-subgroup heterogeneity and revealed novel, clinically relevant insights into medulloblastoma biology. Computational reconstruction of core regulatory circuitry identified a master set of transcription factors, validated by ChIP-seq, that is responsible for subgroup divergence, and implicates candidate cells of origin for Group 4. Our integrated analysis of enhancer elements in a large series of primary tumour samples reveals insights into cis-regulatory architecture, unrecognized dependencies, and cellular origins.
Postnatal proliferation of cerebellar granule neuron precursors (CGNPs), proposed cells of origin for the SHH-associated subgroup of medulloblastoma, is driven by Sonic hedgehog (Shh) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) in the developing cerebellum. Shh induces the oncogene Yes-associated protein (YAP), which drives IGF2 expression in CGNPs and mouse Shh-associated medulloblastomas. To determine how IGF2 expression is regulated downstream of YAP, we carried out an unbiased screen for transcriptional regulators bound to IGF2 promoters. We report that Y-box binding protein-1 (YB-1), an onco-protein regulating transcription and translation, binds to IGF2 promoter P3. We observed that YB-1 is upregulated across human medulloblastoma subclasses as well as in other varieties of pediatric brain tumors. Utilizing the cerebellar progenitor model for the Shh subgroup of medulloblastoma in mice, we show for the first time that YB-1 is induced by Shh in CGNPs. Its expression is YAP-dependent and it is required for IGF2 expression in CGNPs. Finally, both gain-of function and loss-of-function experiments reveal that YB-1 activity is required for sustaining CGNP and medulloblastoma cell (MBC) proliferation. Collectively, our findings describe a novel role for YB-1 in driving proliferation in the developing cerebellum and MBCs and they identify the SHH:YAP:YB1:IGF2 axis as a powerful target for therapeutic intervention in medulloblastomas.
Medulloblastoma, the most common malignant paediatric brain tumour, is currently treated with nonspecific cytotoxic therapies including surgery, whole-brain radiation, and aggressive chemotherapy. As medulloblastoma exhibits marked intertumoural heterogeneity, with at least four distinct molecular variants, previous attempts to identify targets for therapy have been underpowered because of small samples sizes. Here we report somatic copy number aberrations (SCNAs) in 1,087 unique medulloblastomas. SCNAs are common in medulloblastoma, and are predominantly subgroup-enriched. The most common region of focal copy number gain is a tandem duplication of SNCAIP, a gene associated with Parkinson's disease, which is exquisitely restricted to Group 4α. Recurrent translocations of PVT1, including PVT1-MYC and PVT1-NDRG1, that arise through chromothripsis are restricted to Group 3. Numerous targetable SCNAs, including recurrent events targeting TGF-β signalling in Group 3, and NF-κB signalling in Group 4, suggest future avenues for rational, targeted therapy.
Neurogenesis requires negative regulation through differentiation of progenitors or their programmed cell death (PCD). Growth regulation is particularly important in the postnatal cerebellum, where excessive progenitor proliferation promotes medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor in children. We present evidence that PCD operates alongside differentiation to regulate cerebellar granule neuron progenitors (CGNPs) and to prevent medulloblastoma. Here, we show that genetic deletion of pro-apoptotic Bax disrupts regulation of cerebellar neurogenesis and promotes medulloblastoma formation. In Bax(-/-) mice, the period of neurogenesis was extended into the third week of postnatal life, and ectopic neurons and progenitors collected in the molecular layer of the cerebellum and adjacent tectum. Importantly, genetic deletion of Bax in medulloblastoma-prone ND2:SmoA1 transgenic mice greatly accelerated tumorigenesis. Bax-deficient medulloblastomas exhibited strikingly distinct pathology, with reduced apoptosis, increased neural differentiation and tectal migration. Comparing Bax(+/+) and Bax(-/-) medulloblastomas, we were able to identify upregulation of Bcl-2 and nuclear exclusion of p27 as tumorigenic changes that are required to mitigate the tumor suppressive effect of Bax. Studies on human tumors confirmed the importance of modulating Bax in medulloblastoma pathogenesis. Our results demonstrate that Bax-dependent apoptosis regulates postnatal cerebellar neurogenesis, suppresses medulloblastoma formation and imposes selective pressure on tumors that form. Functional resistance to Bax-mediated apoptosis, required for medulloblastoma tumorigenesis, may be a tumor-specific vulnerability to be exploited for therapeutic benefit.
OBJECT - Pediatric cerebellar astrocytomas with pilomyxoid features include classic pilomyxoid astrocytomas (PMAs) and intermediate pilomyxoid tumors (IPTs). Since the original description of PMA in 1999, most reports in the literature have described PMAs arising from the hypothalamic/chiasmatic region. To the authors' knowledge, PMAs arising from the posterior fossa have not been discussed in the neurosurgical literature. Intermediate pilomyxoid tumors, or tumors with pathological features of both pilocytic astrocytoma (PA) and PMA, have only recently been described. In this article, the authors present 2 cases that fall within the spectrum of pediatric cerebellar PMA-including a classic PMA and an intermediate pilomyxoid tumor. The authors compare the radiological presentation, surgical results, and postoperative course to findings in a cohort of 15 patients with cerebellar PAs.
METHODS - Between 2003 and 2010, 2 patients with pilomyxoid-spectrum astrocytomas underwent treatment at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. One was a 22-month-old girl who presented with progressive gait disturbance and falls. The other was a 4-year-old girl who presented with ataxia and generalized weakness. In a retrospective review of pediatric cerebellar neoplasms resected by the senior author during this period, these tumors comprised 4% of cerebellar neoplasms and approximately 10% of cerebellar glial neoplasms.
RESULTS - Both patients were treated with midline suboccipital craniotomy for resection. In both cases, tumor invasion anteriorly into the brainstem prevented gross-total resection. the patient in Case 1 was placed on chemotherapy following pathological diagnosis and later developed definitive evidence of leptomeningeal dissemination (LD) 3 years after the operation. The patient in Case 2 was placed on chemotherapy after exhibiting progressive evidence of local recurrence (findings were negative for LD) 12 months following resection.
CONCLUSIONS - Pediatric patients with cerebellar pilomyxoid-spectrum astrocytomas appear to suffer higher rates of local recurrence and LD than pediatric patients with cerebellar PAs.
Medulloblastoma is the most common pediatric tumor of the nervous system. A large body of animal studies has focused on cerebellar granule neuron precursors (CGNPs) as the cell-of-origin for medulloblastoma. However, the diverse clinical presentations of medulloblastoma subtypes in human patients (nodular, desmoplastic, classical and large cell/anaplastic), and the fact that medulloblastoma is found in a subset of human patients with no ectopic expression of CGNP marker, suggest that the cellular and molecular origins of medulloblastoma are more complex and far from being completely deciphered. Therefore, it is essential to determine whether there is an alternative medulloblastoma tumor cell-of-origin based on which cell-type specific therapeutic modality can be developed. To this end, intracranial orthotopic allografting of genetically marked tumor cell types followed by subsequent analyses of secondary tumor development in recipients will allow determination of the cellular origin of tumor-initiating cells. Here we describe the experimental protocol for intracranial orthotopic allografting of medulloblastoma cells derived from primary tumor tissue, and this procedure can also be used for transplanting cells from established cell lines.
Both anaplasia and increased c-myc gene expression have been shown to be negative prognostic indicators for survival in medulloblastoma patients. myc gene amplification has been identified in many large cell/anaplastic medulloblastoma, but no causative link between c-myc and anaplastic changes has been established. To address this, we stably overexpressed c-myc in two medulloblastoma cell lines, DAOY and UW228, and examined the changes in growth characteristics. When analyzed in vitro, cell lines with increased levels of c-myc had higher rates of growth and apoptosis as well as significantly improved ability to form colonies in soft agar compared with control. When injected s.c. into nu/nu mice, flank xenograft tumors with high levels of c-myc in DAOY cell line background were 75% larger than those derived from control. Overexpression of c-myc was required for tumor formation by UW228 cells. Most remarkably, the histopathology of the Myc tumors was severely anaplastic, with large areas of necrosis/apoptosis, increased nuclear size, and macronucleoli. Indices of proliferation and apoptosis were also significantly higher in Myc xenografts. Thus, c-myc seems to play a causal role in inducing anaplasia in medulloblastoma. Because anaplastic changes are often observed in recurrent medulloblastoma, we propose that c-myc dysregulation is involved in the progression of these malignant embryonal neoplasms.