• A 6-gene signature identifies four molecular subgroups of neuroblastoma

      Abel, Frida; Dalevi, Daniel; Nethander, Maria; Jornsten, Rebecka; De Preter, Katleen; Vermuelen, Joelle; Stallings, Raymond; Kogner, Per; Maris, John; Nilsson, Staffan (2011-04-14)
      Abstract Background There are currently three postulated genomic subtypes of the childhood tumour neuroblastoma (NB); Type 1, Type 2A, and Type 2B. The most aggressive forms of NB are characterized by amplification of the oncogene MYCN (MNA) and low expression of the favourable marker NTRK1. Recently, mutations or high expression of the familial predisposition gene Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) was associated to unfavourable biology of sporadic NB. Also, various other genes have been linked to NB pathogenesis. Results The present study explores subgroup discrimination by gene expression profiling using three published microarray studies on NB (47 samples). Four distinct clusters were identified by Principal Components Analysis (PCA) in two separate data sets, which could be verified by an unsupervised hierarchical clustering in a third independent data set (101 NB samples) using a set of 74 discriminative genes. The expression signature of six NB-associated genes ALK, BIRC5, CCND1, MYCN, NTRK1, and PHOX2B, significantly discriminated the four clusters (p < 0.05, one-way ANOVA test). PCA clusters p1, p2, and p3 were found to correspond well to the postulated subtypes 1, 2A, and 2B, respectively. Remarkably, a fourth novel cluster was detected in all three independent data sets. This cluster comprised mainly 11q-deleted MNA-negative tumours with low expression of ALK, BIRC5, and PHOX2B, and was significantly associated with higher tumour stage, poor outcome and poor survival compared to the Type 1-corresponding favourable group (INSS stage 4 and/or dead of disease, p < 0.05, Fisher's exact test). Conclusions Based on expression profiling we have identified four molecular subgroups of neuroblastoma, which can be distinguished by a 6-gene signature. The fourth subgroup has not been described elsewhere, and efforts are currently made to further investigate this group's specific characteristics.
    • ERBB3 is a marker of a ganglioneuroblastoma/ganglioneuroma-like expression profile in neuroblastic tumours

      Wilzén, Annica; Krona, Cecilia; Sveinbjörnsson, Baldur; Kristiansson, Erik; Dalevi, Daniel; Øra, Ingrid; De Preter, Katleen; Stallings, Raymond L; Maris, John; Versteeg, Rogier; et al. (2013-07-08)
      Abstract Background Neuroblastoma (NB) tumours are commonly divided into three cytogenetic subgroups. However, by unsupervised principal components analysis of gene expression profiles we recently identified four distinct subgroups, r1-r4. In the current study we characterized these different subgroups in more detail, with a specific focus on the fourth divergent tumour subgroup (r4). Methods Expression microarray data from four international studies corresponding to 148 neuroblastic tumour cases were subject to division into four expression subgroups using a previously described 6-gene signature. Differentially expressed genes between groups were identified using Significance Analysis of Microarray (SAM). Next, gene expression network modelling was performed to map signalling pathways and cellular processes representing each subgroup. Findings were validated at the protein level by immunohistochemistry and immunoblot analyses. Results We identified several significantly up-regulated genes in the r4 subgroup of which the tyrosine kinase receptor ERBB3 was most prominent (fold change: 132–240). By gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) the constructed gene network of ERBB3 (n = 38 network partners) was significantly enriched in the r4 subgroup in all four independent data sets. ERBB3 was also positively correlated to the ErbB family members EGFR and ERBB2 in all data sets, and a concurrent overexpression was seen in the r4 subgroup. Further studies of histopathology categories using a fifth data set of 110 neuroblastic tumours, showed a striking similarity between the expression profile of r4 to ganglioneuroblastoma (GNB) and ganglioneuroma (GN) tumours. In contrast, the NB histopathological subtype was dominated by mitotic regulating genes, characterizing unfavourable NB subgroups in particular. The high ErbB3 expression in GN tumour types was verified at the protein level, and showed mainly expression in the mature ganglion cells. Conclusions Conclusively, this study demonstrates the importance of performing unsupervised clustering and subtype discovery of data sets prior to analyses to avoid a mixture of tumour subtypes, which may otherwise give distorted results and lead to incorrect conclusions. The current study identifies ERBB3 as a clear-cut marker of a GNB/GN-like expression profile, and we suggest a 7-gene expression signature (including ERBB3) as a complement to histopathology analysis of neuroblastic tumours. Further studies of ErbB3 and other ErbB family members and their role in neuroblastic differentiation and pathogenesis are warranted.