Carcinogenesis is often linked to aberrant activation of Wnt/β-catenin signalling, in many cases caused by activating CTNNB1 mutations (encoding β-catenin). Recently, β-catenin was established as a decisive regulator of hepatic glutamine synthetase (GS) and cytochrome P450 (CYP) expression in mouse hepatocarcinogenesis. This study was aimed to analyse the connection of β-catenin signalling and GS/CYP expression in human paediatric tumours. Samples from 23 paediatric tumours were analysed for activating mutations in CTNNB1. Protein expression of the model β-catenin target GS and of various CYP isoforms was analysed and correlated with CTNNB1 mutational status and histological findings. Activating CTNNB1 mutations were frequent in hepatoblastoma (80%) and nephroblastoma (31%). In CTNNB1-mutated hepatoblastoma, expression of GS was only detected in tumour areas with epithelial, not with mesenchymal differentiation. Particularly high expression of glutamine synthetase was found in hepatoblastoma cells directly neighbouring a mesenchymal-type tumour area or stroma cells, associated with above-average cell proliferation. GS expression was not observed in CTNNB1-mutated nephroblastoma. Hepatoblastoma with activated β-catenin expressed different CYPs relevant for the metabolism of cytostatic drugs, but with high interindividual variance and heterogeneity within a single tumour. GS and different CYPs are co-expressed in hepatoblastoma with activated β-catenin. Moreover, other factors like histological subtype of tumour cells and cell-cell-interactions at the borders between different areas of the tumours affect expression of these β-catenin target genes. Analysis of CYP expression in resected tumour tissue might be useful for the selection of appropriate cytostatics for post-operative chemotherapy.
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