Testicular germ cell tumours (TGCTs) are characterized by young age of onset and a complex pattern of histological subtypes. Transcriptomic studies have tried to uncover the gene expression patterns underlying this. Here, we present a systematic review of transcriptome studies of TGCTs of adolescents and young adults and identify genes common across the various studies, both for TGCTs in general as well as the histological subtypes, hence elucidating both transcriptional changes associated with malignant transformation and differentiation patterns. A meta-analysis of this type adds power and significance to the genes thus found, where most studies have included only a limited number of samples. Both known (KRAS, MYCN and TPD52) and novel (CCT6A, IGFBP3 and SALL2) cancer genes are implicated in TGC tumorigenesis. Gene expression patterns characteristic to embryonic stem cells are also found deregulated in TGC tumorigenesis. This is reflected in how pluripotent embryonal carcinoma cells commonly differentiate into a variety of embryonic and extra-embryonic histological types, each with unique transcriptomes. The embryonal carcinomas in particular are found to overexpress pluripotency genes, while gene signatures for seminomas, teratomas and yolk sac tumours were also identified. This underlines the distinctive transcriptomic programme across histological subtypes, especially striking given that the TGCT genome is largely similar across the same subtypes.
© 2011 The Authors. International Journal of Andrology © 2011 European Academy of Andrology.