BMI1 is a potent inducer of neural stem cell self-renewal and neural progenitor cell proliferation during development and in adult tissue homeostasis. It is overexpressed in numerous human cancers - including medulloblastomas, in which its functional role is unclear. We generated transgenic mouse lines with targeted overexpression of Bmi1 in the cerebellar granule cell lineage, a cell type that has been shown to act as a cell of origin for medulloblastomas. Overexpression of Bmi1 in granule cell progenitors (GCPs) led to a decrease in cerebellar size due to decreased GCP proliferation and repression of the expression of cyclin genes, whereas Bmi1 overexpression in postmitotic granule cells improved cell survival in response to stress by altering the expression of genes in the mitochondrial cell death pathway and of Myc and Lef-1. Although no medulloblastomas developed in ageing cohorts of transgenic mice, crosses with Trp53−/− mice resulted in a low incidence of medulloblastoma formation. Furthermore, analysis of a large collection of primary human medulloblastomas revealed that tumours with a BMI1high TP53low molecular profile are significantly enriched in Group 4 human medulloblastomas. Our data suggest that different levels and timing of Bmi1 overexpression yield distinct cellular outcomes within the same cellular lineage. Importantly, Bmi1 overexpression at the GCP stage does not induce tumour formation, suggesting that BMI1 overexpression in GCP-derived human medulloblastomas probably occurs during later stages of oncogenesis and might serve to enhance tumour cell survival.
- Received December 28, 2011.
- Accepted June 29, 2012.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0), which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium provided that the original work is properly cited and all further distributions of the work or adaptation are subject to the same Creative Commons License terms.