Purpose: The retinoblastoma gene (RB1) is a tumor suppressor gene that was first discovered in a rare ocular pediatric tumor called retinoblastoma (RB). The RB1 gene is essential for normal progression through the cell cycle and exerts part of its function through the family of transcription factors (E2F) and many other intermediaries. In the absence of normal RB1, genomic instability and chromosomal aberrations accumulate, leading to tumor initiation, progression, and ultimately metastasis. The purpose of this report was to identify the molecular pathways that are deregulated in retinoblastoma.
Methods: We compared gene expression signatures of matched normal retinal tissue and retinoblastoma (RB) tumor tissue from six individuals, using microarray analysis followed by statistical and bioinformatic analyses.
Results: We identified 1,116 genes with increased expression and 837 with decreased expression in RB tumor tissue compared to matched normal retinal tissue. Functional categories of the cognate genes with the greatest statistical support were cell cycle (309 genes), cell death (437 genes), DNA replication, recombination and repair (270 genes), cellular growth and proliferation (464 genes), and cellular assembly and organization (110 genes). The list included differentially expressed retinal cone-cell-specific markers. These data indicated the predominance of cone cells in RB and support the idea that the latter group of cells may be the cells of origin for RB.
Conclusions: The genes differentially expressed in RB as compared to normal retina belong mainly to DNA damage-response pathways, including, but not limited to, breast cancer associated genes (BRCA1, BRCA2), ataxia telangiectasia mutated gene (ATM), ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3 related gene(ATR), E2F, checkpoint kinase 1 (CHK1) genes. In addition, novel pathways, such as aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) signaling, polo-like kinase and mitosis, purine metabolism pathways were involved. The molecules AHR, CHK1, and polo-like kinases are of particular interest because there are several currently available drugs that target these molecules. Further studies are needed to determine if targeting these pathways in RB will have therapeutic value. It is also important to evaluate the relative importance of these pathways in different cells that make up the normal retina.