Sox2 requirement in sonic hedgehog-associated medulloblastoma

Julia Ahlfeld, Rebecca Favaro, Pierfrancesco Pagella, Hans A Kretzschmar, Silvia Nicolis, Ulrich Schüller
Cancer Research 2013 June 15, 73 (12): 3796-807
The transcription factor Sox2 has been shown to play essential roles during embryonic development as well as in cancer. To more precisely understand tumor biology and to identify potential therapeutical targets, we thoroughly investigated the expression and function of Sox2 in medulloblastoma, a malignant embryonic brain tumor that initiates in the posterior fossa and eventually spreads throughout the entire cerebrospinal axis. We examined a large series of tumor samples (n = 188) to show that SOX2 is specifically expressed in Sonic hedgehog (SHH)-associated medulloblastoma with an interesting preponderance in adolescent and adult cases. We further show that cerebellar granule neuron precursors (CGNP), which are believed to serve as the cell of origin for this medulloblastoma subgroup, express Sox2 in early stages. Also, Shh-associated medulloblastoma can be initiated from such Sox2-positive CGNPs in mice. Independent of their endogenous Sox2 expression, constitutive activation of Shh signaling in CGNPs resulted in significantly enhanced proliferation and ectopic expression of Sox2 in vitro and Sox2-positive medulloblastoma in vivo. Genetic ablation of Sox2 from murine medulloblastoma did not affect survival, most likely due to a compensatory overexpression of Sox3. However, acute deletion of Sox2 from primary cultures of CGNPs with constitutive Shh signaling significantly decreased proliferation, whereas overexpression of Sox2 enhanced proliferation of murine medulloblastoma cells. We conclude that Sox2 is a marker for Shh-dependent medulloblastomas where it is required and sufficient to drive tumor cell proliferation.

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