Expression profiling of medulloblastoma: PDGFRA and the RAS/MAPK pathway as therapeutic targets for metastatic disease

Nat Genet. 2001 Oct;29(2):143-52. doi: 10.1038/ng731.


Little is known about the genetic regulation of medulloblastoma dissemination, but metastatic medulloblastoma is highly associated with poor outcome. We obtained expression profiles of 23 primary medulloblastomas clinically designated as either metastatic (M+) or non-metastatic (M0) and identified 85 genes whose expression differed significantly between classes. Using a class prediction algorithm based on these genes and a leave-one-out approach, we assigned sample class to these tumors (M+ or M0) with 72% accuracy and to four additional independent tumors with 100% accuracy. We also assigned the metastatic medulloblastoma cell line Daoy to the metastatic class. Notably, platelet-derived growth factor receptor alpha (PDGFRA) and members of the downstream RAS/mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signal transduction pathway are upregulated in M+ tumors. Immunohistochemical validation on an independent set of tumors shows significant overexpression of PDGFRA in M+ tumors compared to M0 tumors. Using in vitro assays, we show that platelet-derived growth factor alpha (PDGFA) enhances medulloblastoma migration and increases downstream MAP2K1 (MEK1), MAP2K2 (MEK2), MAPK1 (p42 MAPK) and MAPK3 (p44 MAPK) phosphorylation in a dose-dependent manner. Neutralizing antibodies to PDGFRA blocks MAP2K1, MAP2K2 and MAPK1/3 phosphorylation, whereas U0126, a highly specific inhibitor of MAP2K1 and MAP2K2, also blocks MAPK1/3. Both inhibit migration and prevent PDGFA-stimulated migration. These results provide the first insight into the genetic regulation of medulloblastoma metastasis and are the first to suggest a role for PDGFRA and the RAS/MAPK signaling pathway in medulloblastoma metastasis. Inhibitors of PDGFRA and RAS proteins should therefore be considered for investigation as possible novel therapeutic strategies against medulloblastoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Butadienes / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System*
  • Medulloblastoma / genetics*
  • Medulloblastoma / pathology
  • Medulloblastoma / therapy
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / immunology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Nitriles / pharmacology
  • Phenotype
  • Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor alpha / genetics*
  • Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor alpha / immunology


  • Butadienes
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Nitriles
  • U 0126
  • Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor alpha
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases