N-myc amplification and neuronal differentiation in human primitive neuroectodermal tumors of the central nervous system

Cancer Res. 1989 Apr 1;49(7):1797-801.


Despite the phenotypic similarities between primitive neuroectodermal tumors of the central nervous system, childhood neuroblastoma, and peripheral neuroepithelioma, a histogenetic relationship among these neoplasms has not been shown. High levels of N-myc expression occur selectively in developing brain and in some embryonic tumors of neural origin. N-myc amplification and high levels of N-myc expression in childhood neuroblastoma have been correlated with disease stage and prognosis. To determine whether the copy number of the N-myc gene in primitive neuroectodermal tumors of the central nervous system is altered, we examined 20 primitive neuroectodermal tumors by Southern and/or slot blot hybridization to a 1-kilobase N-myc genomic DNA sequence and a 492-base pair N-myc-specific subclone as well as to a 1.1-kilobase albumin complementary DNA sequence as a control for gene copy number. Amplification of the N-myc gene was detected in two cerebellar tumors both of which exhibited neuronal differentiation by light microscopy. These tumors had not been treated previously. Of the remaining 18 tumors, eight were undifferentiated, three showed early neuroblastic, and seven focal glial differentiation. These findings suggest a possible relationship between N-myc amplification and neuronal differentiation.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Differentiation
  • DNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Gene Amplification*
  • Humans
  • Neuroblastoma / genetics*
  • Neuroblastoma / pathology
  • Neuroectodermal Tumors, Primitive, Peripheral / genetics*
  • Neuroectodermal Tumors, Primitive, Peripheral / pathology
  • Neurons / pathology*
  • Proto-Oncogenes*


  • DNA, Neoplasm