GLI1-induced mammary gland tumours are transplantable and maintain major molecular features

Int J Cancer. 2020 Feb 15;146(4):1125-1138. doi: 10.1002/ijc.32522. Epub 2019 Jul 8.


Increased expression of GLI1, the main Hedgehog signalling pathway effector, is related to unfavourable prognosis and progressive disease of certain breast cancer subtypes. We used conditional transgenic mice induced to overexpress GLI1 in the mammary epithelium either alone or in combination with deletion of one Trp53 allele to address the role of elevated GLI1 expression in breast tumour initiation and progression. Induced GLI1 expression facilitates mammary gland tumour formation and this was further increased upon heterozygous deletion of Trp53. The GLI1-induced primary tumours were of different murine molecular subtypes, including Normal-likeEx , Class8Ex , Claudin-LowEx and Erbb2-likeEx . The gene expression profiles of some of the tumours correlated well with the PAM50 subtypes for human breast cancer. Whole-exome sequencing revealed somatic mutation profiles with only little overlap between the primary tumours. Orthotopically serially transplanted GLI1-induced tumours maintained the main morphological characteristics of the primary tumours for ≥10 generations. Independent of Trp53 status and molecular subtype, the serially transplanted GLI1-induced tumours were able to grow both in the absence of transgenic GLI1 expression and in the presence of the GLI1 inhibitor GANT61. These data suggest that elevated GLI1 expression has a determinant role in tumour initiation; however, additional genetic events are required for tumour progression.

Keywords: Claudin-low; GANT61; GLI1; Hedgehog; breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Genetic Heterogeneity
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / genetics*
  • Mammary Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1 / biosynthesis
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1 / genetics*


  • GLI1 protein, human
  • Zinc Finger Protein GLI1