Reconsideration of biallelic inactivation of the VHL tumour suppressor gene in hemangioblastomas of the central nervous system

J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2001 May;70(5):644-8. doi: 10.1136/jnnp.70.5.644.


Objectives: Cerebellar haemangioblastoma occurs sporadically or as a component tumour of autosomal dominant von Hippel-Lindau disease. Biallelic inactivation of the VHL tumour suppressor gene, which is located on chromosome 3p, has been shown to be involved in the pathogenesis of both tumour entities. Mechanisms of VHL inactivation are intragenic mutations, mitotic recombination events, and hypermethylation of the promoter region. The systematic and complete examination of these genetic and epigenetic phenomena in large series of von Hippel-Lindau disease related and sporadic hemangioblastomas has, thus far, not been performed.

Methods: In the largest series to date, 29 von Hippel-Lindau disease associated and 13 sporadic haemangioblastomas were investigated for all suggested inactivating mechanisms of the VHL gene using single strand conformational polymorphism (SSCP), loss of heterozygosity (LOH), and methylation analyses. Additionally, corresponding blood samples of all patients were screened for VHL germline mutations by SSCP and Southern blotting.

Results: Germline mutations were identified in 94% of patients with von Hippel-Lindau disease and their tumours and 62% of these hemangioblastomas showed LOH of chromosome 3p. Of the 13 sporadic tumours, 23% showed a single somatic mutation of the VHL gene that was not present in the germline. 3p LOH was identified in 50% of informative sporadic tumours. No von Hippel-Lindau disease related or sporadic tumour demonstrated VHL promoter hypermethylation.

Conclusions: For most von Hippel-Lindau disease related haemangioblastomas, the inactivation or loss of both alleles of the VHL gene, as predicted by the Knudson two hit theory, is required. However, in a subset of tumours including most sporadic haemangioblastomas, the genetic pathways involved in tumorigenesis have yet to be defined and may represent alterations of a different pathway or pathways.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alleles*
  • Cerebellar Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Chromosomes, Human, Pair 3 / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Hemangioblastoma / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Ligases*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins*
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases*
  • Von Hippel-Lindau Tumor Suppressor Protein


  • Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • Von Hippel-Lindau Tumor Suppressor Protein
  • Ligases
  • VHL protein, human