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PLoS Genet. 2012;8(5):e1002700. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002700. Epub 2012 May 10.

Acquisition order of Ras and p53 gene alterations defines distinct adrenocortical tumor phenotypes.

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  • 1Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche, Unité 1036, Grenoble, France.


Sporadic adrenocortical carcinomas (ACC) are rare endocrine neoplasms with a dismal prognosis. By contrast, benign tumors of the adrenal cortex are common in the general population. Whether benign tumors represent a separate entity or are in fact part of a process of tumor progression ultimately leading to an ACC is still an unresolved issue. To this end, we have developed a mouse model of tumor progression by successively transducing genes altered in adrenocortical tumors into normal adrenocortical cells. The introduction in different orders of the oncogenic allele of Ras (H-Ras(G12V)) and the mutant p53(DD) that disrupts the p53 pathway yielded tumors displaying major differences in histological features, tumorigenicity, and metastatic behavior. Whereas the successive expression of Ras(G12V) and p53(DD) led to highly malignant tumors with metastatic behavior, reminiscent of those formed after the simultaneous introduction of p53(DD) and Ras(G12V), the reverse sequence gave rise only to benign tumors. Microarray profiling revealed that 157 genes related to cancer development and progression were differentially expressed. Of these genes, 40 were up-regulated and 117 were down-regulated in malignant cell populations as compared with benign cell populations. This is the first evidence-based observation that ACC development follows a multistage progression and that the tumor phenotype is directly influenced by the order of acquisition of genetic alterations.

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