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Lab Invest. 2003 Mar;83(3):429-34.

Overexpression of human Dickkopf-1, an antagonist of wingless/WNT signaling, in human hepatoblastomas and Wilms' tumors.

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Department of Neuropathology, University of Bonn Medical Center, Bonn, Germany.


Hepatoblastomas (HBs) represent the most frequent malignant liver tumors of childhood; yet little is known about the molecular pathogenesis and the alterations in expression patterns of these tumors. We used a suppression subtractive hybridization approach to identify new candidate genes that may play a role in HB tumorigenesis. cDNA species derived from corresponding liver and fetal liver were subtracted from HB cDNAs, and a series of interesting candidates were isolated that were differentially expressed. One of the transcripts overexpressed in HB was derived from the human Dickkopf-1 (hDkk-1) gene, which encodes a secreted protein acting as a potent inhibitor of the wingless/WNT signaling pathway. We examined the hDkk-1 expression levels in 32 HB biopsy specimens and in the corresponding liver samples, in 4 HB cell lines, and in a panel of other tumors and normal tissues using a differential PCR approach and Northern blotting. Eighty-one percent of the HBs but none of the normal pediatric or fetal liver tissues showed hDkk-1 expression. hDkk-1 transcripts were also present in 5 of 6 Wilms' tumors but only weakly detectable in 2 of 20 hepatocellular carcinoma samples and in 1 of 5 medulloblastoma cell lines; transcripts were absent in malignant gliomas and breast cancer. The central effector molecule in the WNT developmental control pathway is the beta-catenin protein. Interestingly, activating mutations of the beta-catenin gene have previously been identified in 48% of HBs, and more than 85% of HBs show accumulation of beta-catenin protein as the indicator for an activated pathway. The overexpression of the inhibitor Dkk-1 may therefore be related to uncontrolled wingless/WNT signaling and may represent a negative feedback mechanism. hDkk-1 expression represents a novel marker for HBs and Wilms' tumors.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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