GLI1 is a central mediator of EWS/FLI1 signaling in Ewing tumors

PLoS One. 2009 Oct 27;4(10):e7608. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007608.


The Ewing Sarcoma Family Tumors (ESFT) consist of the classical pathologic entities of Ewing Sarcoma and peripheral Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor. Occurring largely in the childhood through young adult years, these tumors have an unsurpassed propensity for metastasis and have no defined cell of origin. The biology of these aggressive malignancies centers around EWS/FLI1 and related EWS/ETS chimeric transcription factors, which are largely limited to this tumor class. Much progress has been made in the identification of a network of loci whose expression is modulated by EWS/FLI1 and its congeners. To date, little progress has been made in reconstructing the sequence of direct and indirect events that produce this network of modulated loci. The recent identification of GLI1 as an upregulated target of EWS/ETS transcription factors suggests a target which may be a more central mediator in the ESFT signaling network. In this paper, we further define the relationship of EWS/FLI1 expression and GLI1 upregulation in ESFT. This relationship is supported with data from primary tumor specimens. It is consistently observed across multiple ESFT cell lines and with multiple means of EWS/FLI1 inhibition. GLI1 inhibition affects tumor cell line phenotype whether shRNA or endogenous or pharmacologic inhibitors are employed. As is seen in model transformation systems, GLI1 upregulation by EWS/FLI1 appears to be independent of Hedgehog stimulation. Consistent with a more central role in ESFT pathogenesis, several known EWS/FLI1 targets appear to be targeted through GLI1. These findings further establish a central role for GLI1 in the pathogenesis of Ewing Tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion / metabolism*
  • Phenotype
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Proto-Oncogene Protein c-fli-1 / metabolism*
  • RNA Interference
  • RNA-Binding Protein EWS
  • Retroviridae / metabolism
  • Sarcoma, Ewing / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1


  • EWS-FLI fusion protein
  • GLI1 protein, human
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion
  • Proto-Oncogene Protein c-fli-1
  • RNA-Binding Protein EWS
  • Transcription Factors
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1