In the last 20 years, it has become clear that developmental genes and their regulators, noncoding RNAs including microRNAs and long-noncoding RNAs, within signaling pathways play a critical role in the pathogenesis of cancer. Many of these pathways were first identified in genetic screens in Drosophila and other lower organisms. Mammalian orthologs were subsequently identified and genes within the pathways cloned and found to regulate cell growth. Genes and pathways expressed during embryonic development, including the Notch, Wnt/β-Catenin, TGF-β/BMP, Shh/Patched, and Hippo pathways are mutated, lost, or aberrantly regulated in a wide variety of human cancers, including skin, breast, blood, and brain cancers, including medulloblastoma. These biochemical pathways affect cell fate determination, axis formation, and patterning during development and regulate tissue homeostasis and regeneration in adults. Medulloblastoma, the most common malignant nervous system tumor in childhood, are thought to arise from disruptions in cerebellar development [reviewed by Marino, S. (2005)]. Defining the extracellular cues and intracellular signaling pathways that control cerebellar neurogenesis, especially granule cell progenitor (GCP) proliferation and differentiation has been useful for developing models to unravel the mechanisms underlying medulloblastoma formation and growth. In this chapter, we will review the development of the cerebellar cortex, highlighting signaling pathways of potential relevance to tumorigenesis.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.