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Cancer Res. 2000 Apr 15;60(8):2239-46.

The normal patched allele is expressed in medulloblastomas from mice with heterozygous germ-line mutation of patched.

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Department of Developmental Neurobiology, St Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105, USA.


Defects in a developmental signaling pathway involving mammalian homologues of the Drosophila segment polarity gene, patched (ptc) and its ligand, sonic hedgehog (shh), contribute to tumor formation in several tissues. Recently, a subset of medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor in children, was found to contain somatic mutations in the human ptc gene. In addition, basal cell nevus syndrome (BCNS), or Gorlin syndrome, which is characterized by developmental anomalies and a predisposition to skin and nervous system malignancies, is associated with germ-line mutation of ptc. Targeted disruption of both alleles of ptc in mice results in embryonic lethality. However, ptc+/- mice survive and develop spontaneous cerebellar brain tumors, suggesting that ptc may function as a tumor suppressor gene. Therefore, we investigated ptc+/-mice as a model for human medulloblastoma. We report that 14% of ptc+/- mice develop central nervous system tumors in the posterior fossa by 10 months of age, with peak tumor incidence occurring between 16 and 24 weeks of age. The tumors exhibited several characteristics of human medulloblastoma, including expression of intermediate filament proteins specific for neurons and glia. Full-length ptc mRNA was present in all tumors analyzed, indicating that there was no loss of heterozygosity at the ptc locus. Nucleotide sequence of ptc mRNA from four tumors failed to identify any mutations. However, a comparison of the normal ptc sequence from C57BL/6 and 129Sv mice did reveal several polymorphisms. High levels of glil mRNA and protein were detected in the tumors, suggesting that the shh/ptc pathway was activated despite the persistence of ptc expression. These data indicate that haploinsufficiency of ptc is sufficient to promote oncogenesis in the central nervous system.

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