Sequential activation of Snail1 and N-Myc modulates sonic hedgehog-induced transformation of neural cells

Cancer Res. 2011 Aug 1;71(15):5336-45. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-2633. Epub 2011 Jun 6.


Activation of the Sonic hedgehog (Shh) pathway and increased expression of Gli1 play an important role in proliferation and transformation of granule cell progenitors (GCP) in the developing cerebellum. Medulloblastomas arising from cerebellar GCPs are frequently driven by Shh pathway-activating mutations; however, molecular mechanisms of Shh pathway dysregulation and transformation of neural progenitors remain poorly defined. We report that the transcription factor and oncogene Snail1 (Sna1) is directly induced by Shh pathway activity in GCPs, murine medulloblastomas, and human medulloblastoma cells. Enforced expression of Sna1 was sufficient to induce GCPs and medulloblastoma cell proliferation in the absence of Shh/Gli1 exposure. In addition, enforced expression of Sna1 increased transformation of medulloblastoma cells in vitro and in vivo. Analysis of potential Sna1 targets in neural cells revealed a novel Sna1 target, N-Myc, a transcription factor known to play a role in Shh-mediated GCP proliferation and medulloblastoma formation. We found that Sna1 directly induced transcription of N-Myc in human medulloblastoma cells and that depletion of N-Myc ablated the Sna1-induced proliferation and transformation. Taken together, these results provide further insight into the mechanism of Shh-induced transformation of neural progenitor cells and suggest that induction of Sna1 may serve to amplify the oncogenic potential of Shh pathway activation through N-Myc induction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic*
  • Cerebellar Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cerebellum / cytology
  • Hedgehog Proteins / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / physiology
  • Medulloblastoma / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Neoplasm / biosynthesis
  • Signal Transduction
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1


  • GLI1 protein, human
  • Gli1 protein, mouse
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • SHH protein, human
  • SNAI1 protein, human
  • Shh protein, mouse
  • Snai1 protein, mouse
  • Snail Family Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1