FGFR3 Mutational Activation Can Induce Luminal-like Papillary Bladder Tumor Formation and Favors a Male Sex Bias

Eur Urol. 2023 Jan;83(1):70-81. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2022.09.030. Epub 2022 Oct 21.


Background: Bladder cancer (BCa) is more common in men and presents differences in molecular subtypes based on sex. Fibroblast growth factor receptor 3 (FGFR3) mutations are enriched in the luminal papillary muscle-invasive BCa (MIBC) and non-MIBC subtypes.

Objective: To determine whether FGFR3 mutations initiate BCa and impact BCa male sex bias.

Design, setting, and participants: We developed a transgenic mouse model expressing the most frequent FGFR3 mutation, FGFR3-S249C, in urothelial cells. Bladder tumorigenesis was monitored in transgenic mice, with and without carcinogen exposure. Mouse and human BCa transcriptomic data were compared.

Intervention: Mutant FGFR3 overexpression in mouse urothelium and siRNA knockdown in cell lines, and N-butyl-N(4-hydroxybutyl)-nitrosamine (BBN) exposure.

Outcome measurements and statistical analysis: Impact of transgene dosage on tumor frequency, synergy with BBN treatment, and FGFR3 pathway activation were analyzed. The sex-specific incidence of FGFR3-mutated tumors was evaluated in mice and humans. FGFR3 expression in FGFR3-S249C mouse urothelium and in various human epithelia was measured. Mutant FGFR3 regulation of androgen (AR) and estrogen (ESR1) receptor activity was evaluated, through target gene expression (regulon) and reporter assays.

Results and limitations: FGFR3-S249C expression in mice induced low-grade papillary BCa resembling human luminal counterpart at histological, genomic, and transcriptomic levels, and promoted BBN-induced basal BCa formation. Mutant FGFR3 expression levels impacted tumor incidence in mice, and mutant FGFR3-driven human tumors were restricted to epithelia presenting high normal FGFR3 expression levels. BCa male sex bias, also found in our model, was even higher in human FGFR3-mutated tumors compared with wild-type tumors and was associated with higher AR and lower ESR1 regulon activity. Mutant FGFR3 expression inhibited both ESR1 and AR activity in mouse tumors and human cell lines, demonstrating causation only between FGFR3 activation and low ESR1 activity in tumors.

Conclusions: Mutant FGFR3 initiates luminal papillary BCa formation and favors BCa male sex bias, potentially through FGFR3-dependent ESR1 downregulation. Patients with premalignant lesions or early-stage BCa could thus potentially benefit from FGFR3 targeting. FGFR3 expression level in epithelia could account for FGFR3-driven carcinoma tissue specificity.

Patient summary: By developing a transgenic mouse model, we showed that gain-of-function mutations of FGFR3 receptor, among the most frequent genetic alterations in bladder cancer (BCa), initiate BCa formation. Our results could support noninvasive detection of FGFR3 mutations and FGFR3 targeting in early-stage bladder lesions.

Keywords: Androgen receptor; Bladder cancer; Estrogen receptor; Fibroblast growth factor receptor 3; Luminal tumors; Mouse model; Sex bias; Tumor microenvironment; Tyrosine kinase receptor.

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / adverse effects
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mutation
  • Receptor, Fibroblast Growth Factor, Type 3* / genetics
  • Sexism
  • Urinary Bladder / pathology
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms* / pathology


  • Receptor, Fibroblast Growth Factor, Type 3
  • Androgens
  • FGFR3 protein, human