Background: The EWS-FLI-1 fusion protein is associated with 85-90% of Ewing's sarcoma family tumors (ESFT), the remaining 10-15% of cases expressing chimeric genes encoding EWS or FUS fused to one of several ets transcription factor family members, including ERG-1, FEV, ETV1 and ETV6. ESFT are dependent on insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) for growth and survival and recent evidence suggests that mesenchymal progenitor/stem cells constitute a candidate ESFT origin.
Methodology/principal findings: To address the functional relatedness between ESFT-associated fusion proteins, we compared mouse progenitor cell (MPC) permissiveness for EWS-FLI-1, EWS-ERG and FUS-ERG expression and assessed the corresponding expression profile changes. Whereas all MPC isolates tested could stably express EWS-FLI-1, only some sustained stable EWS-ERG expression and none could express FUS-ERG for more than 3-5 days. Only 14% and 4% of the total number of genes that were respectively induced and repressed in MPCs by the three fusion proteins were shared. However, all three fusion proteins, but neither FLI-1 nor ERG-1 alone, activated the IGF1 promoter and induced IGF1 expression.
Conclusion/significance: Whereas expression of different ESFT-associated fusion proteins may require distinct cellular microenvironments and induce transcriptome changes of limited similarity, IGF1 induction may provide one common mechanism for their implication in ESFT pathogenesis.