Activation of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling in distinct histologic subtypes of human germ cell tumors

Pediatr Dev Pathol. Mar-Apr 2006;9(2):115-31. doi: 10.2350/08-05-0097.1. Epub 2006 Jun 16.


The molecular signaling pathways mediating human germ cell tumor (GCT) formation and progression are poorly understood despite a large number of studies detailing recurrent cytogenetic abnormalities. Germ cell tumors consist of multiple histologic subtypes and can also be divided into infantile/childhood or adolescent/adult tumors as well as gonadal or nongonadal sites of origin. All of these parameters are important in defining clinical outcome and in understanding the pathogenesis of these tumors. We utilized complementary DNA (cDNA) microarray analysis to identify differences in signal transduction pathways between 2 histologic subtypes of malignant ovarian GCTs (dysgerminomas versus ovarian endodermal sinus tumors). Hierarchical cluster analysis using only the genes involved in Wnt/beta-catenin signaling was able to distinguish these 2 tumor subtypes from each other. Wnt13 and beta-catenin showed significant differential expression patterns between the 2 tumor subtypes, and the results were confirmed by semiquantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. Additional GCTs were studied for the expression of other members of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling, including Wnt13, frizzled, disheveled, low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 6, and beta-catenin. Differential expression levels were identified for several histologic subtypes of human GCTs. Finally, we prepared tissue microarrays containing GCTs from 83 different patients and demonstrated high levels of beta-catenin protein expression in 100% and nuclear accumulation in approximately 50% to 70% of all endodermal sinus tumors and immature teratomas (ITs). This pattern was independent of the patient's age. No nuclear accumulation of beta-catenin was observed in germinomas, embryonal carcinomas, or choriocarcinomas. These results indicate that activation of Wnt/beta-catenin signaling plays an important role in the pathogenesis of 2 histologic subtypes of human GCTs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Germinoma / genetics
  • Germinoma / metabolism*
  • Germinoma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • RNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Testicular Neoplasms / genetics
  • Testicular Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Testicular Neoplasms / pathology
  • Tissue Array Analysis
  • Wnt Proteins / genetics
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism*
  • beta Catenin / genetics
  • beta Catenin / metabolism*


  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Wnt Proteins
  • beta Catenin