Analysis of the bHLH transcription factors Olig1 and Olig2 in brain tumors

J Neurooncol. 2004 May;67(3):265-71. doi: 10.1023/b:neon.0000024190.56750.81.


In the absence of specific markers, the histological diagnosis of oligodendroglial tumors is based on subjective qualitative criteria and remains controversial. Recently, two bHLH transcription factors involved in oligodendroglial specification, Olig1 and Olig2 have been proposed as potential markers of oligodendrogliomas. Expression of Olig1/2 was analyzed by in situ hybridization on 78 samples including 47 glial, 29 non-glial tumors, and two non-tumoral brain tissues. Both genes had a similar pattern of expression. Olig1 and Olig2 were expressed in 26/30 (87%) and 28/30 (93%) of oligodendroglial tumors respectively but in only 9% of glioblastomas (1/11). Olig genes were also expressed in the low-grade fibrillary astrocytomas (4/4) and anaplastic astrocytomas (2/2). No expression was found in non-glial tumors, except for one primary cerebral lymphoma. Double staining with PLP, NFH, GFAP showed that olig genes were expressed by mature, non-tumoral oligodendrocytes, but not by normal astrocytes or neurones. This study indicates that Olig1/2 expression clearly distinguishes pure Olig-negative glioblastomas from a wide spectrum of Olig-positive tumors including traditional oligodendrogliomas and oligoastrocytomas, glioblastomas with an oligodendroglial component (GBMO), and WHO grade 2 and 3 astrocytomas. Because Olig genes have a crucial role in oligodendroglial determination, our data could be of help in defining the real spectrum of oligodendroglial tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytes / metabolism
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • DNA Probes
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Helix-Loop-Helix Motifs
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oligodendrocyte Transcription Factor 2
  • Oligodendroglia / metabolism


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • DNA Probes
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • OLIG1 protein, human
  • OLIG2 protein, human
  • Oligodendrocyte Transcription Factor 2