Am J Pathol 2007 Apr;170(4):1370-8
Department of Biochemistry and Cancer Biology, Medical University of Ohio, 3035 Arlington Ave., Toledo, OH 43614, USA.
Activation of oncogenes underlies the pathogenesis of most human cancers. In neuroblastoma, amplification of the oncogene MYCN occurs in approximately 22% of cases and is associated with advanced stages of the disease and poor prognosis. Identification of other oncogenes that are consistently mutated or overexpressed in neuroblastoma is crucial for a molecular understanding of the pathogenic process. Here, we report that the oncogene Bmi-1 is highly expressed in human neuroblastoma cell lines and primary tumors. Neuroblastoma development in MYCN transgenic mice, an animal model for the human disease, was associated with a marked increase in the levels of Bmi-1 expression. Bmi-1 cooperated with MYCN in transformation of benign S-type neuroblastoma cells and avian neural crest cells by inhibiting the apoptotic activity of MYCN. Importantly, down-regulation of Bmi-1 impaired the ability of neuroblastoma cells to grow in soft agar and induce tumors in immunodeficient mice. Moreover, Bmi-1-knockdown neuroblastoma xenografts were characterized by a significant increase in the amount of Schwannian stroma, a histological feature associated with clinically favorable neuroblastomas. These findings suggest a crucial role for Bmi-1 in neuroblastoma pathogenesis and provide insights into the molecular basis of neuroblastoma heterogeneity.