Background: Desmoplastic small round cell tumor (DSRCT) is characterized by the presence of a fusion protein EWS/WT1, arising from the t (11;22) (p13;q12) translocation. Here we examine the oncogenic properties of two splice variants of EWS/WT1, EWS/WT1-KTS and EWS/WT1 + KTS.
Methods: We over-expressed both EWS/WT1 variants in murine embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) of wild-type, p53+/- and p53-/- backgrounds and measured effects on cell-proliferation, anchorage-independent growth, clonogenicity after serum withdrawal, and sensitivity to cytotoxic drugs and gamma irradiation in comparison to control cells. We examined gene expression profiles in cells expressing EWS/WT1. Finally we validated our key findings in a small series of DSRCT.
Results: Neither isoform of EWS/WT1 was sufficient to transform wild-type MEFs however the oncogenic potential of both was unmasked by p53 loss. Expression of EWS/WT1 in MEFs lacking at least one allele of p53 enhanced cell-proliferation, clonogenic survival and anchorage-independent growth. EWS/WT1 expression in wild-type MEFs conferred resistance to cell-cycle arrest after irradiation and daunorubicin induced apoptosis. We show DSRCT commonly have nuclear localization of p53, and copy-number amplification of MDM2/MDMX. Expression of either isoform of EWS/WT1 induced characteristic mRNA expression profiles. Gene-set enrichment analysis demonstrated enrichment of WNT pathway signatures in MEFs expressing EWS/WT1 + KTS. Wnt-activation was validated in cell lines with over-expression of EWS/WT1 and in DSRCT.
Conclusion: In conclusion, we show both isoforms of EWS/WT1 have oncogenic potential in MEFs with loss of p53. In addition we provide the first link between EWS/WT1 and Wnt-pathway signaling. These data provide novel insights into the function of the EWS/WT1 fusion protein which characterize DSRCT.