Background: The Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling pathway plays an important role in cerebellar development, and mutations leading to hyperactive Shh signaling have been associated with certain forms of medulloblastoma, a common form of pediatric brain cancer. While the fundamentals of this pathway are known, the molecular targets contributing to Shh-mediated proliferation and transformation are still poorly understood. Na,K-ATPase is a ubiquitous enzyme that maintains intracellular ion homeostasis and functions as a signaling scaffold and a cell adhesion molecule. Changes in Na,K-ATPase function and subunit expression have been reported in several cancers and loss of the β1-subunit has been associated with a poorly differentiated phenotype in carcinoma but its role in medulloblastoma progression is not known.
Methods: Human medulloblastoma cell lines and primary cultures of cerebellar granule cell precursors (CGP) were used to determine whether Shh regulates Na,K-ATPase expression. Smo/Smo medulloblastoma were used to assess the Na,K-ATPase levels in vivo. Na,K-ATPase β1-subunit was knocked down in DAOY cells to test its role in medulloblastoma cell proliferation and tumorigenicity.
Results: Na,K-ATPase β1-subunit levels increased with differentiation in normal CGP cells. Activation of Shh signaling resulted in reduced β1-subunit mRNA and protein levels and was mimicked by overexpression of Gli1and Bmi1, both members of the Shh signaling cascade; overexpression of Bmi1 reduced β1-subunit promoter activity. In human medulloblastoma cells, low β1-subunit levels were associated with increased cell proliferation and in vivo tumorigenesis.
Conclusions: Na,K-ATPase β1-subunit is a target of the Shh signaling pathway and loss of β1-subunit expression may contribute to tumor development and progression not only in carcinoma but also in medulloblastoma, a tumor of neuronal origin.