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J Natl Cancer Inst. 1992 Feb 5;84(3):181-7.

RNA expression of the WT1 gene in Wilms' tumors in relation to histology.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030.



On the basis of accumulating data, the recently isolated WT1 gene is a Wilms' tumor gene and a putative tumor suppressor gene. These findings include expression in developing fetal kidney, intragenic deletions in tumors, and germline mutations in predisposed individuals. Wilms' tumors, which exhibit a broad range of differentiation, are composed of three cell types: blastema, epithelium, and stroma.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between WT1 gene expression and histologic composition in Wilms' tumors in an effort to elucidate how the WT1 gene functions in proliferation of these histologic components.


We used Northern blot hybridization to study WT1 gene expression by messenger RNA (mRNA) accumulation in 20 tumors of varying histology and in adjacent uninvolved kidney tissue. In two patients, tumors were also compared before and after therapy.


Tumors that were predominantly blastemal expressed high amounts of WT1 mRNA, whereas predominantly stromal tumors expressed either low or undetectable amounts. Blastemal tumors that were predominantly poorly differentiated expressed WT1 mRNA at higher levels than those that were more well differentiated. Although we expected that a putative tumor suppressor gene like WT1 would generally be expressed at lower levels in tumor than in normal kidney, this was true only in predominantly stromal cells. One of the two patients studied before and after therapy had a dramatic response to therapy accompanied by a decline in WT1 gene expression and disappearance of blastemal and epithelial elements.


A correlation was observed between WT1 gene expression and histology of the tumors. Level of expression was inversely related to the degree of differentiation in blastemal tumors and in the patient with a dramatic response to therapy. These results, in conjunction with the observation that WT1 mRNA is abundant in normal fetal kidney, suggest that WT1 gene expression is related to kidney development, especially in differentiation of blastemal components.


Further studies to search for alterations of the WT1 gene in tumors and to identify regulatory factors in gene expression will increase understanding of the role of this gene in normal development and tumorigenesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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