Many human medulloblastoma tumors overexpress repressor element-1 silencing transcription (REST) /neuron-restrictive silencer factor, which can be functionally countered by REST-VP16
Fuller, G.N.; Su, X.; Price, R.E.; Cohen, Z.R.; Lang, F.F.; Sawaya, R.; Majumder, S.
Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 4(3): 343-349
ISSN/ISBN: 1535-7163 PMID: 15767543 DOI: 10.1158/1535-7163.mct-04-0228
Medulloblastoma, one of the most malignant pediatric brain tumors, is believed to arise from the undifferentiated external granule-layer cells in the cerebellum. It is a heterogeneous cancer, and the mechanism of tumorigenesis for the majority of types is unknown. Repressor element-1 silencing transcription/neuron-restrictive silencer factor (REST/NRSF) is a transcriptional repressor that can block transcription of a battery of neuronal differentiation genes by binding to a specific consensus DNA sequence present in their regulatory region. Previously, we found that some medulloblastoma cell lines express REST/NRSF at high levels compared with either neuronal progenitor cells or fully differentiated neurons. However, it is not known if REST/NRSF is indeed overexpressed in human medulloblastoma tumor specimens and in what frequency. Here, we did an immunohistochemical analysis of such tumor specimens using an anti-REST antibody. We show that among 21 human medulloblastoma tumors, 17 expressed REST/NRSF (6 strongly and 11 weakly). In contrast, adjacent normal cerebellum tissue sections and four of the tumor specimens did not express REST/NRSF, indicating that abnormal expression of REST/NRSF is observed in the majority of human medulloblastoma tumors. To determine whether countering REST/NRSF activity blocks tumorigenicity of medulloblastoma cells, especially in the intracranial (i.c.) environment, we found that adenovirus-mediated expression of REST-VP16, a recombinant transcription factor that can compete with REST/NRSF and activate REST/NRSF target genes instead of repressing them, blocked the i.c. tumorigenic potential of medulloblastoma cells and inhibited growth of established tumors in nude mice, suggesting that REST/NRSF may serve as a therapeutic target for medulloblastoma and that forced expression of neuronal differentiation genes in medulloblastoma cells through agents, such as REST-VP16, can interfere with their tumorigenicity.