Bone morphogenetic protein signalling activity distinguishes histological subsets of paediatric germ cell tumours

Int J Androl. 2011 Aug;34(4 Pt 2):e218-33. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2605.2011.01186.x. Epub 2011 Jun 22.


Germ cell tumours (GCTs) are cancers of the testis, ovary or extragonadal sites that occur in infants, children and adults. Testicular GCT is the most common cancer in young men aged 15-40 years. Abnormalities in developmental signalling pathways such as wnt/β-catenin, TGF-β/BMP and Hedgehog have been described in many childhood tumours. To date, however, the status of BMP signalling in GCTs has not been described. Herein, we examine BMP-SMAD signalling in a set of clinically-annotated paediatric GCTs. We find that BMP signalling activity is absent in undifferentiated tumours such as seminomas and dysgerminomas, but robustly present in most yolk sac tumours, a differentiated tumour type. Gene expression profiling of TGF-β/BMP pathway genes in germinomas and yolk sac tumours reveals a set of genes that distinguish the two tumour types. There is significant intertumoural heterogeneity between tumours of the same histological subclass, implying that the BMP pathway can be differentially regulated in individual tumours. Finally, through miRNA expression profiling, we identify differential regulation of a set of miRNAs predicted to target the TGF-β/BMP pathway at multiple sites. Taken together, these results suggest that the BMP signalling pathway may represent a new therapeutical target for childhood GCTs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / genetics
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / metabolism*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dysgerminoma* / diagnosis
  • Dysgerminoma* / genetics
  • Dysgerminoma* / metabolism
  • Endodermal Sinus Tumor / genetics
  • Endodermal Sinus Tumor / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Seminoma* / diagnosis
  • Seminoma* / genetics
  • Seminoma* / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Smad Proteins / metabolism
  • Testicular Neoplasms / genetics
  • Testicular Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Testicular Neoplasms / pathology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins
  • MicroRNAs
  • Smad Proteins
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta