Connexins (Cx) form gap junctions and allow direct cell-to-cell communication. Cx through gap junctions or by themselves play regulatory roles on cell growth and differentiation. Using genetically modified mice, we previously found that Cx32 acts as a down-regulator of growth in normal thyroid gland. In this study, we examined the impact of Cx32 ablation on oncogene-driven thyroid growth and neoplastic transformation. Cx32 knockout (Cx32-KO) mice were crossed with transgenic mice expressing, selectively in the thyroid gland, either the E7 or RET/PTC3 (RP3) oncogene. As already described, Cx32-KO mice had no detectable thyroid alteration in physiological conditions and mice expressing E7 or RP3 exhibited time-dependent thyroid hypertrophy and variable changes in expression of differentiation. The thyroid of E7 mice evolved towards a large colloid goitre whereas RP3 mice developed a hyperplastic thyroid of variable size, and the largest glands (about 40% of total) represented a profound tissue remodeling with proliferative papillary formations. E7-induced thyroid hypertrophy was reduced by about 40% in Cx32-KO mice as compared with wild-type (WT) littermates. On the contrary, thyroid hypertrophy induced by thyrotropin stimulation (in response to goitrogen treatment) was enhanced by about 40% in Cx32-KO mice as compared with WT mice. Thyroid hypertrophy of RP3 mice and the proportion of glands showing extensive tissue remodeling were drastically reduced in mice devoid of Cx32. Our data show that Cx32, which negatively controls thyroid growth activated by thyrotropin via the cAMP pathway, would act as a positive effector of thyroid growth triggered by oncogenes acting through other signaling cascades.
Although brain tumors are classified and treated based upon their histology, the molecular factors involved in the development of various tumor types remain unknown. In this study, we show that the type and order of genetic events directs the development of gliomas, central nervous system primitive neuroectodermal tumors, and atypical teratoid/rhabdoid-like tumors from postnatal mouse neural stem/progenitor cells (NSC/NPC). We found that the overexpression of specific genes led to the development of these three different brain tumors from NSC/NPCs, and manipulation of the order of genetic events was able to convert one established tumor type into another. In addition, loss of the nuclear chromatin-remodeling factor SMARCB1 in rhabdoid tumors led to increased phosphorylation of eIF2?, a central cytoplasmic unfolded protein response (UPR) component, suggesting a role for the UPR in these tumors. Consistent with this, application of the proteasome inhibitor bortezomib led to an increase in apoptosis of human cells with reduced SMARCB1 levels. Taken together, our findings indicate that the order of genetic events determines the phenotypes of brain tumors derived from a common precursor cell pool, and suggest that the UPR may represent a therapeutic target in atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors.
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