Bmi1 is required for Hedgehog pathway-driven medulloblastoma expansion

Lowell Evan Michael, Bart A Westerman, Alexandre N Ermilov, Aiqin Wang, Jennifer Ferris, Jianhong Liu, Marleen Blom, David W Ellison, Maarten van Lohuizen, Andrzej A Dlugosz
Neoplasia: An International Journal for Oncology Research 2008, 10 (12): 1343-9, 5p following 1349
Inappropriate Hedgehog (Hh) signaling underlies development of a subset of medulloblastomas, and tumors with elevated HH signaling activity express the stem cell self-renewal gene BMI1. To test whether Bmi1 is required for Hh-driven medulloblastoma development, we varied Bmi1 gene dosage in transgenic mice expressing an oncogenic Hh effector, SmoA1, driven by a glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) promoter. Whereas 100% of SmoA1; Bmi1(+/+) or SmoA1;Bmi1(+/-) mice examined between postnatal (P) days 14 and 26 had typical medulloblastomas (N = 29), tumors were not detected in any of the SmoA1;Bmi1(-/-) animals examined (N = 6). Instead, small ectopic collections of cells were present in the region of greatest tumor load in SmoA1 animals, suggesting that medulloblastomas were initiated but failed to undergo expansion into frank tumors. Cells within these Bmi1(-/-) lesions expressed SmoA1 but were largely nonproliferative, in contrast to cells in Bmi1(+/+) tumors (6.2% vs 81.9% PCNA-positive, respectively). Ectopic cells were negative for the progenitor marker nestin, strongly GFAP-positive, and highly apoptotic, relative to Bmi1(+/+) tumor cells (29.6% vs 6.3% TUNEL-positive). The alterations in proliferation and apoptosis in SmoA1;Bmi1(-/-) ectopic cells are associated with reduced levels of Cyclin D1 and elevated expression of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p19(Arf), two inversely regulated downstream targets of Bmi1. These data provide the first demonstration that Bmi1 is required for spontaneous de novo development of a solid tumor arising in the brain, suggest a crucial role for Bmi1-dependent, nestin-expressing progenitor cells in medulloblastoma expansion, and implicate Bmi1 as a key factor required for Hh pathway-driven tumorigenesis.

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