Gene Summary

Gene:PHOX2B; paired like homeobox 2b
Aliases: PMX2B, NBLST2, NBPhox
Summary:The DNA-associated protein encoded by this gene is a member of the paired family of homeobox proteins localized to the nucleus. The protein functions as a transcription factor involved in the development of several major noradrenergic neuron populations and the determination of neurotransmitter phenotype. The gene product is linked to enhancement of second messenger-mediated activation of the dopamine beta-hydroylase, c-fos promoters and several enhancers, including cyclic amp-response element and serum-response element. Expansion of a 20 amino acid polyalanine tract in this protein by 5-13 aa has been associated with congenital central hypoventilation syndrome. [provided by RefSeq, Jul 2016]
Databases:VEGA, OMIM, HGNC, Ensembl, GeneCard, Gene
Protein:paired mesoderm homeobox protein 2B
Source:NCBIAccessed: 16 March, 2017


What does this gene/protein do?
Show (30)

Cancer Overview

Research Indicators

Publications Per Year (1992-2017)
Graph generated 16 March 2017 using data from PubMed using criteria.

Literature Analysis

Mouse over the terms for more detail; many indicate links which you can click for dedicated pages about the topic.

  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • DNA Methylation
  • Tumor Stem Cell Assay
  • Neurons
  • Genetic Predisposition
  • PHOX2B
  • Hirschsprung Disease
  • Germ-Line Mutation
  • DNA Sequence Analysis
  • Promoter Regions
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Cancer Gene Expression Regulation
  • Childhood Cancer
  • Up-Regulation
  • Loss of Heterozygosity
  • Base Sequence
  • Chromosome 4
  • Pedigree
  • Translocation
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Mutation
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Residual Disease
  • Transcription Factors
  • United Kingdom
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Phenotype
  • Sleep Apnea, Central
  • Infant
  • Genetic Heterogeneity
  • Single Nucleotide Polymorphism
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Messenger RNA
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Molecular Sequence Data
Tag cloud generated 16 March, 2017 using data from PubMed, MeSH and CancerIndex

Specific Cancers (3)

Data table showing topics related to specific cancers and associated disorders. Scope includes mutations and abnormal protein expression.

Entity Topic PubMed Papers
NeuroblastomaPHOX2B and Neuroblastoma View Publications68
Neuroblastoma, Familial PHOX2B germline mutations in familial neuroblastoma
Hereditary predisposition to neuroblastoma accounts for less than 5% of neuroblastomas. Bourdeaut et al (2005) report cases a family with three first-degree relatives with neuroblastic tumours in one branch and two siblings with Hirschsprung's disease in another branch - having a germline R100L PHOX2B mutation.
View Publications12
NeuroblastomaPHOX2B and Monitoring of Residual Disease View Publications6

Note: list is not exhaustive. Number of papers are based on searches of PubMed (click on topic title for arbitrary criteria used).

Latest Publications: PHOX2B (cancer-related)

Di Lascio S, Saba E, Belperio D, et al.
PHOX2A and PHOX2B are differentially regulated during retinoic acid-driven differentiation of SK-N-BE(2)C neuroblastoma cell line.
Exp Cell Res. 2016; 342(1):62-71 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
PHOX2B and its paralogue gene PHOX2A are two homeodomain proteins in the network regulating the development of autonomic ganglia that have been associated with the pathogenesis of neuroblastoma (NB), because of their over-expression in different NB cell lines and tumour samples. We used the SK-N-BE(2)C cell line to show that all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), a drug that is widely used to inhibit growth and induce differentiation in NBs, regulates both PHOX2A and PHOX2B expression, albeit by means of different mechanisms: it up-regulates PHOX2A and down-regulates PHOX2B. Both mechanisms act at transcriptional level, but prolonged ATRA treatment selectively degrades the PHOX2A protein, whereas the corresponding mRNA remains up-regulated. Further, we show that PHOX2A is capable of modulating PHOX2B expression, but this mechanism is not involved in the PHOX2B down-regulation induced by retinoic acid. Our findings demonstrate that PHOX2A expression is finely controlled during retinoic acid differentiation and this, together with PHOX2B down-regulation, reinforces the idea that they may be useful biomarkers for NB staging, prognosis and treatment decision making.

Naftali O, Maman S, Meshel T, et al.
PHOX2B is a suppressor of neuroblastoma metastasis.
Oncotarget. 2016; 7(9):10627-37 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Paired like homeobox 2B (PHOX2B) is a minimal residual disease (MRD) marker of neuroblastoma. The presence of MRD, also referred to as micro-metastases, is a powerful marker of poor prognosis in neuroblastoma. Lung metastasis is considered a terminal event in neuroblastoma. Lung micro-metastatic neuroblastoma (MicroNB) cells show high expression levels of PHOX2B and possess a less malignant and metastatic phenotype than lung macro metastatic neuroblastoma (MacroNB) cells, which hardly express PHOX2B. In vitro assays showed that PHOX2B knockdown in MicroNB cells did not affect cell viability; however it decreased the migratory capacity of the MicroNB-shPHOX2B cells. An orthotopic inoculation of MicroNB-shPHOX2B cells into the adrenal gland of nude mice resulted in significantly larger primary tumors and a heavier micro-metastatic load in the lungs and bone-marrow, than when control cells were inoculated. PHOX2B expression was found to be regulated by methylation. The PHOX2B promoter in MacroNB cells is significantly more methylated than in MicroNB cells. Demethylation assays using 5-azacytidine demonstrated that methylation can indeed inhibit PHOX2B transcription in MacroNB cells. These pre-clinical data strongly suggest that PHOX2B functions as a suppressor of neuroblastoma progression.

Bachetti T, Di Zanni E, Ravazzolo R, Ceccherini I
miR-204 mediates post-transcriptional down-regulation of PHOX2B gene expression in neuroblastoma cells.
Biochim Biophys Acta. 2015; 1849(8):1057-65 [PubMed] Related Publications
Neuroblastoma (NB) is a rare childhood cancer of the peripheral sympathetic nervous system and accounts for approximately 10% of all pediatric tumors. Heterozygous PHOX2B mutations have been found in association with NB development in familial, sporadic and syndromic cases. In addition, the PHOX2B gene is widely over-expressed both in tumor samples and NB cell lines. Post-transcriptional gene regulation is known to be involved in mRNA stability and, in NB, microRNAs (miRNAs) seem to be responsible for altered expression of genes driving differentiation, apoptosis, and migration. To assess the possible impact of post-transcriptional regulation in NB cell lines, we have focused on the PHOX2B mRNA stability by both in silico analysis and functional studies on its 3'untranslated region (3'UTR). PHOX2B gene expression has resulted under post-transcriptional control, as suggested by: i) instability of PHOX2B mRNA, demonstrated by short mRNA half-life levels in both IMR32 and LAN-1 cell lines, ii) role of the PHOX2B-3'UTR, confirmed by the activity of proper reporter constructs, and iii) miRNA-204, shown to enhance the PHOX2B 3'UTR mediated down-regulation of the reporter construct activity. Finally, miRNA-204 has resulted to decrease the stability of the PHOX2B mRNA at different extents in the presence of different SNP rs1063611 alleles. Therefore, post-transcriptional down-regulation of the PHOX2B gene takes place in NB cell lines and miRNA-204 participates in such a 3'UTR mediated control.

Di Zanni E, Fornasari D, Ravazzolo R, et al.
Identification of novel pathways and molecules able to down-regulate PHOX2B gene expression by in vitro drug screening approaches in neuroblastoma cells.
Exp Cell Res. 2015; 336(1):43-57 [PubMed] Related Publications
PHOX2B is a transcription factor involved in the regulation of neurogenesis and in the correct differentiation of the autonomic nervous system. The pathogenetic role of PHOX2B in neuroblastoma (NB) is supported by mutations in familial, sporadic and syndromic cases of NB and overexpression of PHOX2B and its target ALK in tumor samples and NB cell lines. Starting from these observations, we have performed in vitro drug screening approaches targeting PHOX2B overexpression as a potential pharmacological means in NB. In particular, in order to identify molecules able to decrease PHOX2B expression, we have evaluated the effects of 70 compounds in IMR-32 cell line stably expressing the luciferase gene under the control of the PHOX2B promoter. Curcumin, SAHA and trichostatin A showed to down-regulate the PHOX2B promoter activity which resulted in a decrease of both protein and mRNA expressions. In addition, we have observed that curcumin acts by interfering with PBX-1/MEIS-1, NF-κB and AP-1 complexes, in this work demonstrated for the first time to regulate the transcription of the PHOX2B gene. Finally, combined drug treatments showed successful effects in down-regulating the expression of both PHOX2B and its target ALK genes, thus supporting the notion of the effectiveness of molecule combination in tumor therapy.

Schleiermacher G, Janoueix-Lerosey I, Delattre O
Recent insights into the biology of neuroblastoma.
Int J Cancer. 2014; 135(10):2249-61 [PubMed] Related Publications
Neuroblastoma (NB) is an embryonal tumor of the sympathetic nervous system which accounts for 8-10% of pediatric cancers. It is characterized by a broad spectrum of clinical behaviors from spontaneous regression to fatal outcome despite aggressive therapies. Considerable progress has been made recently in the germline and somatic genetic characterization of patients and tumors. Indeed, predisposition genes that account for a significant proportion of familial and syndromic cases have been identified and genome-wide association studies have retrieved a number of susceptibility loci. In addition, genome-wide sequencing, copy-number and expression studies have been conducted on tumors and have detected important gene modifications, profiles and signatures that have strong implications for the therapeutic stratification of patients. The identification of major players in NB oncogenesis, including MYCN, ALK, PHOX2B and LIN28B, has enabled the development of new animal models. Our review focuses on these recent advances, on the insights they provide on the mechanisms involved in NB development and their applications for the clinical management of patients.

Williams P, Wegner E, Ziegler DS
Outcomes in multifocal neuroblastoma as part of the neurocristopathy syndrome.
Pediatrics. 2014; 134(2):e611-6 [PubMed] Related Publications
The neurocristopathy syndrome occurs because of a germline mutation of the paired-like homeobox 2b (PHOX2B) gene at 4p12, a neurogenesis regulator gene. The result is abnormal neural crest cell development resulting in congenital central hypoventilation syndrome, Hirschsprung disease, and neuroblastoma (NB), which is often multifocal and disseminated in its presentation. Previously, such widespread disease was regarded as highly aggressive and treated either with palliative intent or, conversely, with very intense, high-dose chemotherapy. We now present a patient who had neurocristopathy syndrome who had multifocal NB associated with an underlying germline PHOX2B mutation. He was treated conservatively with surgery and low-dose chemotherapy. After treatment he had extensive residual disease that has continued to mature despite no further treatment. A literature review identified 26 similar patients presenting with multifocal NB as part of the neurocristopathy syndrome. In all cases the NB behaved in an indolent manner with no deaths from tumor reported when patients received appropriate treatment. These provocative findings suggest for the first time that children who have neurocristopathy-associated NB should be treated conservatively, despite the aggressive appearance of their disease.

Druĭ AE, Shorikov EV, Tsaur GA, et al.
[Prognostic value of the determination of bone marrow lesion in patients with neuroblastoma based on the gene PHOX2B and TH expression].
Vopr Onkol. 2014; 60(2):57-62 [PubMed] Related Publications
Bone marrow (BM) involvement in neuroblastoma patients is commonly detected by cytomorphology and associated with poor outcome. Molecular techniques, flow cytometry and immunocytochemistry were offered to detect low number of tumor cells in BM due to high value of analytical sensitivity, while prognostic significance of results, obtained with these methods is unclear. PHOX2B and/or TH genes expression was selected as molecular marker of BM involvement. It was determined in 411 BM samples obtained from 75 neuroblastoma patients. 263 BM samples were taken at the time of primary diagnosis, 80 during treatment and 68 before autologous stem cells (ASC) apheresis. Prognostic significance of BM involvement was defined using 5-year (in some groups 4-year) overall (OS), event free (EFS) and progression free (PFS) survival. 24 patients (32.0%) were positive for PHOX2B and/or TH expression in the BM at the time of primary diagnosis. They had decreased survival rates: EFS achieved 0.49+/-0.12, OS - 0.57+/-0.12, PFS - 0.54+/-0.12, comparing with 0.75+/-0.07, 0.80+/-0.07 and 0.77+/-0.07, respectively, in patients with negative BM, p=0.014, p=0.029 and p=0.033. The trend to decreased OS and PFS was detected in case of minimal residual disease presence at the end of the induction chemotherapy (OS and PFS both are 0.22+/-0.19 vs. 0.70+/-0.18 and 0.43+/-0.22, correspondingly, p=0.121, p=0.130). Detection of PHOX2B and/or TH genes expression in the BM before ASC harvesting led to significant decreasing of EFS and OS (0.00 vs. 0.59+/-0.14 and 0.75+/-0.13, respectively, p=0.021 and p=0.016).

Romania P, Castellano A, Surace C, et al.
High-resolution array CGH profiling identifies Na/K transporting ATPase interacting 2 (NKAIN2) as a predisposing candidate gene in neuroblastoma.
PLoS One. 2013; 8(10):e78481 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Neuroblastoma (NB), the most common solid cancer in early childhood, usually occurs sporadically but also its familial occurance is known in 1-2% of NB patients. Germline mutations in the ALK and PHOX2B genes have been found in a subset of familial NBs. However, because some individuals harbouring mutations in these genes do not develop this tumor, additional genetic alterations appear to be required for NB pathogenesis. Herein, we studied an Italian family with three NB patients, two siblings and a first cousin, carrying an ALK germline-activating mutation R1192P, that was inherited from their unaffected mothers and with no mutations in the PHOX2B gene. A comparison between somatic and germline DNA copy number changes in the two affected siblings by a high resolution array-based Comparative Genomic Hybridization (CGH) analysis revealed a germline gain at NKAIN2 (Na/K transporting ATPase interacting 2) locus in one of the sibling, that was inherited from the parent who does not carry the ALK mutation. Surprisingly, NKAIN2 was expressed at high levels also in the affected sibling that lacks the genomic gain at this locus, clearly suggesting the existance of other regulatory mechanisms. High levels of NKAIN2 were detected in the MYCN-amplified NB cell lines and in the most aggressive NB lesions as well as in the peripheral blood of a large cohort of NB patients. Consistent with a role of NKAIN2 in NB development, NKAIN2 was down-regulated during all-trans retinoic acid differentiation in two NB cell lines. Taken together, these data indicate a potential role of NKAIN2 gene in NB growth and differentiation.

Wang W, Zhong Q, Teng L, et al.
Mutations that disrupt PHOXB interaction with the neuronal calcium sensor HPCAL1 impede cellular differentiation in neuroblastoma.
Oncogene. 2014; 33(25):3316-24 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Heterozygous germline mutations in PHOX2B, a transcriptional regulator of sympathetic neuronal differentiation, predispose to diseases of the sympathetic nervous system, including neuroblastoma and congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS). Although the PHOX2B variants in CCHS largely involve expansions of the second polyalanine repeat within the C-terminus of the protein, those associated with neuroblastic tumors are nearly always frameshift and truncation mutations. To test the hypothesis that the neuroblastoma-associated variants exert their effects through loss or gain of protein-protein interactions, we performed a large-scale yeast two-hybrid screen using both wild-type (WT) and six different mutant PHOX2B proteins against over 10 000 human genes. The neuronal calcium sensor protein HPCAL1 (VILIP-3) exhibited strong binding to WT PHOX2B and a CCHS-associated polyalanine expansion mutant but only weakly or not at all to neuroblastoma-associated frameshift and truncation variants. We demonstrate that both WT PHOX2B and the neuroblastoma-associated R100L missense and the CCHS-associated alanine expansion variants induce nuclear translocation of HPCAL1 in a Ca(2+)-independent manner, while the neuroblastoma-associated 676delG frameshift and K155X truncation mutants impair subcellular localization of HPCAL1, causing it to remain in the cytoplasm. HPCAL1 did not appreciably influence the ability of WT PHOX2B to transactivate the DBH promoter, nor did it alter the decreased transactivation potential of PHOX2B variants in 293T cells. Abrogation of the PHOX2B-HPCAL1 interaction by shRNA knockdown of HPCAL1 in neuroblastoma cells expressing PHOX2B led to impaired neurite outgrowth with transcriptional profiles indicative of inhibited sympathetic neuronal differentiation. Our results suggest that certain PHOX2B variants associated with neuroblastoma pathogenesis, because of their inability to bind to key interacting proteins such as HPCAL1, may predispose to this malignancy by impeding the differentiation of immature sympathetic neurons.

Pei D, Luther W, Wang W, et al.
Distinct neuroblastoma-associated alterations of PHOX2B impair sympathetic neuronal differentiation in zebrafish models.
PLoS Genet. 2013; 9(6):e1003533 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Heterozygous germline mutations and deletions in PHOX2B, a key regulator of autonomic neuron development, predispose to neuroblastoma, a tumor of the peripheral sympathetic nervous system. To gain insight into the oncogenic mechanisms engaged by these changes, we used zebrafish models to study the functional consequences of aberrant PHOX2B expression in the cells of the developing sympathetic nervous system. Allelic deficiency, modeled by phox2b morpholino knockdown, led to a decrease in the terminal differentiation markers th and dbh in sympathetic ganglion cells. The same effect was seen on overexpression of two distinct neuroblastoma-associated frameshift mutations, 676delG and K155X - but not the R100L missense mutation - in the presence of endogenous Phox2b, pointing to their dominant-negative effects. We demonstrate that Phox2b is capable of regulating itself as well as ascl1, and that phox2b deficiency uncouples this autoregulatory mechanism, leading to inhibition of sympathetic neuron differentiation. This effect on terminal differentiation is associated with an increased number of phox2b(+), ascl1(+), elavl3(-) cells that respond poorly to retinoic acid. These findings suggest that a reduced dosage of PHOX2B during development, through either a heterozygous deletion or dominant-negative mutation, imposes a block in the differentiation of sympathetic neuronal precursors, resulting in a cell population that is likely to be susceptible to secondary transforming events.

Hartomo TB, Kozaki A, Hasegawa D, et al.
Minimal residual disease monitoring in neuroblastoma patients based on the expression of a set of real-time RT-PCR markers in tumor-initiating cells.
Oncol Rep. 2013; 29(4):1629-36 [PubMed] Related Publications
Minimal residual disease (MRD) is derived from tumor-initiating cells (TICs) and is responsible for tumor relapse. Neuroblastoma is characterized by extreme tumor heterogeneity, and more than half of high-risk patients experience tumor relapse. To overcome tumor heterogeneity and achieve more sensitive detection of MRD, several sets of real-time RT-PCR markers have been reported for MRD monitoring in neuroblastoma patients from different centers. However, these markers vary across centers and are still being validated. In the present study, we validated the ability of 14 commonly used real-time RT-PCR markers to detect MRD based on their expression in neuroblastoma TICs, and we developed a novel MRD detection protocol, which scored the samples as MRD-positive when the expression of one of the 11 real-time RT-PCR markers (CHRNA3, CRMP1, DBH, DCX, DDC, GABRB3, GAP43, ISL1, KIF1A, PHOX2B and TH) exceeded the normal range. By using this protocol, we prospectively monitored MRD in 73 bone marrow (BM), 12 peripheral blood stem cell and 8 peripheral blood samples from 14 neuroblastoma patients treated at a single center. We scored 100, 56, 56 and 57% BM cytology-positive, elevated vanillylmandelic acid (VMA), elevated homovanillic acid (HVA) and elevated neuron-specific enolase (NSE) samples as MRD-positive, respectively. MRD was also positive in 48, 45, 46 and 43% of the BM cytology-negative and normal VMA, normal HVA and normal NSE samples, respectively. These results suggest that the present MRD detection protocol based on the expression of a set of 11 real-time RT-PCR markers in neuroblastoma TICs achieves sensitive MRD monitoring in neuroblastoma patients.

Sridhar S, Al-Moallem B, Kamal H, et al.
New insights into the genetics of neuroblastoma.
Mol Diagn Ther. 2013; 17(2):63-9 [PubMed] Related Publications
Neuroblastoma is a genetically and clinically heterogeneous tumor of childhood, arising from precursor cells of the sympathetic nervous system. It is still a challenging cancer for pediatric oncology, as some tumors will spontaneously regress, while others will become refractory to all forms of therapy. The clinical course of this disease is greatly influenced by both patient age and the genetic abnormalities that occur within the tumors. MYCN (v-myc myelocytomatosis viral related oncogene, neuroblastoma derived (avian)) amplification and loss of chromosome 11q heterozygosity have been known to be indicative of poor prognosis. In this article, we review how mutations and structural alterations in specific genes contribute to inheritable predisposition to neuroblastoma and/or to aggressive disease pathogenesis, as well as implications for diagnosis and therapy. These genes include PHOX2B (paired-like homeobox 2b), ALK (anaplastic lymphoma receptor tyrosine kinase), and ATRX (alpha thalassemia/mental retardation syndrome X-linked).

Nagashimada M, Ohta H, Li C, et al.
Autonomic neurocristopathy-associated mutations in PHOX2B dysregulate Sox10 expression.
J Clin Invest. 2012; 122(9):3145-58 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
The most common forms of neurocristopathy in the autonomic nervous system are Hirschsprung disease (HSCR), resulting in congenital loss of enteric ganglia, and neuroblastoma (NB), childhood tumors originating from the sympathetic ganglia and adrenal medulla. The risk for these diseases dramatically increases in patients with congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS) harboring a nonpolyalanine repeat expansion mutation of the Paired-like homeobox 2b (PHOX2B) gene, but the molecular mechanism of pathogenesis remains unknown. We found that introducing nonpolyalanine repeat expansion mutation of the PHOX2B into the mouse Phox2b locus recapitulates the clinical features of the CCHS associated with HSCR and NB. In mutant embryos, enteric and sympathetic ganglion progenitors showed sustained sex-determining region Y (SRY) box10 (Sox10) expression, with impaired proliferation and biased differentiation toward the glial lineage. Nonpolyalanine repeat expansion mutation of PHOX2B reduced transactivation of wild-type PHOX2B on its known target, dopamine β-hydroxylase (DBH), in a dominant-negative fashion. Moreover, the introduced mutation converted the transcriptional effect of PHOX2B on a Sox10 enhancer from repression to transactivation. Collectively, these data reveal that nonpolyalanine repeat expansion mutation of PHOX2B is both a dominant-negative and gain-of-function mutation. Our results also demonstrate that Sox10 regulation by PHOX2B is pivotal for the development and pathogenesis of the autonomic ganglia.

Li H, Du Y, Zhang D, et al.
Identification of novel DNA methylation markers in colorectal cancer using MIRA-based microarrays.
Oncol Rep. 2012; 28(1):99-104 [PubMed] Related Publications
To identify novel hypermethylated genes in colorectal cancer (CRC) and to test their potential application in CRC early diagnosis, a genome-wide screening of 57,723 CpG dinucleotides covering 4,010 genes was performed using MIRA-based microarrays in paired DNA samples extracted from 3 fresh frozen CRC tissues and their matching non-cancer tissues from 3 CRC patients undergoing curative surgery. Candidate hypermethylated genes screened by MIRA-based microarrays were further validated in independent CRC samples. A total of 297 CpG dinucleotides covering 211 genes were found to be hypermethylated in CRC tissues. From these 211 candidate methylated genes, three novel hypermethylated genes with more than four probes positive were picked up for validation. Direct bisulfite sequencing revealed that methylations occurred at multiple CpG sites of these three genes in cancer tissues, especially for PHOX2B and FGF12. Combined bisulfite restriction analysis showed that these three genes were methylated in cancer samples but not in non-cancer samples. We also compared the methylation levels of these three novel hypermethylated genes with those of vimentin and SEPT9, well-known hypermethylated genes in CRC, and found that methylated PHOX2B, FGF12 and GAD2 were better than methylated vimentin and SEPT9 in differentiating CRC cancer tissue from non-cancer tissue. Significant enrichment analysis of GO terms of the hypermethylated genes showed that a high proportion of hypermethylated genes in cancer tissues are involved in the regulation of transcription. In conclusion, we found a set of novel hypermethylated genes in CRC, which may have potential to be used as biomarkers for the early diagnosis of CRC.

Lamon T, Pontier S, Têtu L, et al.
[The congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS): a late presentation].
Rev Mal Respir. 2012; 29(3):426-9 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: The congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS) or Ondine's curse is a rare autosomal dominant disease, characterized by disorders of the autonomic nervous system, with abnormal ventilatory responses to hypercapnia and hypoxia. PHOX2B has been identified as the major gene causing CCHS. It results from polyalanine repeat expansion mutations. It typically presents in the newborn period but some cases have been described in adults (late onset CCHS) reflecting the variable penetrance of PHOX2B mutations.
CASE REPORT: A 48 year-old woman presented, after ovarian cyst surgery, with severe hypoventilation requiring intubation. Arterial blood gases revealed a PaO2 of 6.6kPa (50mmHg), a PaCO2 of 10kPa (80mmHg) and a pH of 7.22. The past medical history revealed nocturnal symptoms for a few years. These included apnoeas, fitful sleep and awakening with headaches. Physical examination, pulmonary function tests, lung tomography and magnetic resonance imaging of the brainstem were all normal. Polysomnography revealed numerous central and obstructive apnoeas and hypopnoeas, with severe hypoxaemia and hypercapnia. Hypoxic and hypercapnic stimulation tests showed no adaptation of the ventilatory responses. Genetic analysis showed a heterozygous five alanine expansion mutation of the 20-residue polyalanine tract in exon 3 of the PHOX2B gene.
CONCLUSION: The diagnosis of late onset CCHS should be considered in patients with unexplained hypoventilation, and physiological evaluation should be undertaken to document the abnormal ventilatory responses. The presence of a PHOX2B mutation confirms the diagnosis.

Stutterheim J, Zappeij-Kannegieter L, Ora I, et al.
Stability of PCR targets for monitoring minimal residual disease in neuroblastoma.
J Mol Diagn. 2012 Mar-Apr; 14(2):168-75 [PubMed] Related Publications
In neuroblastoma (NB) patients, minimal residual disease (MRD) can be detected by real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) using NB-specific target genes, such as PHOX2B and TH. However, it is unknown whether the mRNA levels of these targets vary either during treatment or at relapse. If marker genes are not stably expressed, estimation of MRD levels in bone marrow (BM) or peripheral blood will be hampered. We studied the stability of a panel of qPCR markers in primary tumors at diagnosis compared with i) paired metastasis (n = 7), ii) treated (n = 10), and iii) relapse (n = 6) tumors. We also compared relative expression of the targets in iv) primary tumors and BM at diagnosis (n = 17), v) BM and peripheral blood at diagnosis (n = 20), vi) BM at diagnosis and during treatment (n = 26), and vii) BM from different puncture sides (n = 110). Especially at diagnosis, PCR target expression is quite stable. Accurate quantification is possible when expression level can be related to the primary tumor; however, PCR target expression can alter on treatment and at relapse. If the median value of relative expression of a panel of PCR targets is used, most variations due to treatment and outgrowth of subclones level out, allowing for reliable application and quantification of MRD-PCR targets in NB patients.

Druĭ AE, Tsaur GA, Popov AM, et al.
[The TH, ELAVL4 and GD2 gene expression as diagnostic markers of bone marrow lesions in patients with neuroblastoma].
Vopr Onkol. 2012; 58(4):514-20 [PubMed] Related Publications
The bone marrow (BM) TH, ELAVL4 and GD2 genes expression was evaluated in 331 samples from 57 different stage neuroblastoma (NB) patients, 26 BM samples from patients without NB and samples from 2 NB cell lines (IMR-32, Kelly) by real-time PCR. BM samples were considered NB-positive if PHOX2B expression was found or tumor cells were detected in BM smears. TH expression was not revealed in normal BM and was significantly lower in NB-negative samples. Expression of PHOX2B, TH and GD2 remained stable throughout NB treatment, while ELAVL4 expression was down-modulated. ROC-analysis revealed similar initial and follow-up values of TH and PHOX2B in NB patients' bone marrow making it possible to be used for disease detection and monitoring. The test prediction value was 0.994 and 0.952, respectively. The additional test for TH didn't increase the test effectiveness in comparison with PHOX2B test. ELAVL4 and GD2 assessment didn't add diagnostic value for BM involvement monitoring in NB patients.

Bourdeaut F, Ferrand S, Brugières L, et al.
ALK germline mutations in patients with neuroblastoma: a rare and weakly penetrant syndrome.
Eur J Hum Genet. 2012; 20(3):291-7 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Neuroblastic tumours may occur in a predisposition context. Two main genes are involved: PHOX2B, observed in familial cases and frequently associated with other neurocristopathies (Ondine's and Hirschsprung's disease); and ALK, mostly in familial tumours. We have assessed the frequency of mutations of these two genes in patients with a presumable higher risk of predisposition. We sequenced both genes in 26 perinatal cases (prebirth and <1 month of age, among which 10 were multifocal), 16 multifocal postnatal (>1 month) cases, 3 pairs of affected relatives and 8 patients with multiple malignancies. The whole coding sequences of the two genes were analysed in tumour and/or constitutional DNAs. We found three ALK germline mutations, all in a context of multifocal tumours. Two mutations (T1151R and R1192P) were inherited and shared by several unaffected patients, thus illustrating an incomplete penetrance. Younger age at tumour onset did not seem to offer a relevant selection criterion for ALK analyses. Conversely, multifocal tumours might be the most to benefit from the genetic screening. Finally, no PHOX2B germline mutation was found in this series. In conclusion, ALK deleterious mutations are rare events in patients with a high probability of predisposition. Other predisposing genes remain to be discovered.

Zhang Z, Tang H, Wang Z, et al.
MiR-185 targets the DNA methyltransferases 1 and regulates global DNA methylation in human glioma.
Mol Cancer. 2011; 10:124 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Perturbation of DNA methylation is frequent in cancers and has emerged as an important mechanism involved in tumorigenesis. To determine how DNA methylation is modified in the genome of primary glioma, we used Methyl-DNA immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) and Nimblegen CpG promoter microarrays to identify differentially DNA methylation sequences between primary glioma and normal brain tissue samples.
METHODS: MeDIP-chip technology was used to investigate the whole-genome differential methylation patterns in glioma and normal brain tissues. Subsequently, the promoter methylation status of eight candidate genes was validated in 40 glioma samples and 4 cell lines by Sequenom's MassARRAY system. Then, the epigenetically regulated expression of these genes and the potential mechanisms were examined by chromatin immunoprecipitation and quantitative real-time PCR.
RESULTS: A total of 524 hypermethylated and 104 hypomethylated regions were identified in glioma. Among them, 216 hypermethylated and 60 hypomethylated regions were mapped to the promoters of known genes related to a variety of important cellular processes. Eight promoter-hypermethylated genes (ANKDD1A, GAD1, HIST1H3E, PCDHA8, PCDHA13, PHOX2B, SIX3, and SST) were confirmed in primary glioma and cell lines. Aberrant promoter methylation and changed histone modifications were associated with their reduced expression in glioma. In addition, we found loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at the miR-185 locus located in the 22q11.2 in glioma and induction of miR-185 over-expression reduced global DNA methylation and induced the expression of the promoter-hypermethylated genes in glioma cells by directly targeting the DNA methyltransferases 1.
CONCLUSION: These comprehensive data may provide new insights into the epigenetic pathogenesis of human gliomas.

Wylie L, Philpott A
Neuroblastoma progress on many fronts: the Neuroblastoma Research Symposium.
Pediatr Blood Cancer. 2012; 58(4):649-51 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Neuroblastoma (NBL) is a pediatric tumor of infancy derived from precursor cells of the sympathetic nervous system. Clinicians and researchers in developmental biology and genetics recently met to facilitate meaningful crosstalk and to discuss considerable progress made in the clinical treatment and basic biology of NBL. For instance, discoveries in familial NBL have identified genetic aberrations in Phox2b and Alk that predispose to NBL, while advances in epigenetics and MYCN regulation have also offered insight into NBL pathogenesis and future treatment. Moreover, novel therapeutic avenues are also being explored, including targeted immunotherapies, and innovative radiotherapeutic and chemotherapeutic approaches. This multi-disciplinary meeting was convened to aid the transfer of new biological findings into the clinic and to use clinical advances to inform the basic biological understanding of this devastating disease.

Normand C, Michon J, Janoueix-Lerosey I, et al.
[Genetic alterations in neuroblastoma and their usefulness for clinical management].
Bull Cancer. 2011; 98(5):477-88 [PubMed] Related Publications
Neuroblastoma, the most frequent solid extracranial tumor of childhood, is characterized by a wide variability of its clinical course. The most important clinical prognostic markers are stage and age at diagnosis, but these markers are insufficient to predict outcome reliably and to determine treatment intensity. Recent evidence indicates that neuroblastoma can be considered as a "genetic disease", firstly by the recent observation that certain alleles of specific genes significantly increase the relative risk to develop neuroblastoma, and the discovery of mutations in genes such as ALK or PHOX2B in rare familial cases. On the other hand, a large number of recurrent genetic somatic alterations have been described in neuroblastoma. Recent technological advances, such as array-CGH (comparative genomic hybridisation), now enable the analysis of these markers in a single step and allow the definition of genomic profiles associated with typical clinical features. Numerical chromosome alterations are observed more frequently in tumors of younger children with localised disease and a good prognosis, whereas segmental chromosome alterations are found more frequently in tumors of older children with advanced stages of disease and a poorer outcome. Future therapeutic stratification schemes can make use of the tumor genomic profile by proposing less intense treatment for infants with a neuroblastoma harboring a favorable tumor genomic profile, while intensifying treatment in case of a defavorable tumor genomic profile. Such approaches require standardisation of the molecular techniques and the interpretation of results for application in international trials.

Bachetti T, Di Paolo D, Di Lascio S, et al.
PHOX2B-mediated regulation of ALK expression: in vitro identification of a functional relationship between two genes involved in neuroblastoma.
PLoS One. 2010; 5(10) [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Neuroblastoma (NB) is a severe pediatric tumor originating from neural crest derivatives and accounting for 15% of childhood cancer mortality. The heterogeneous and complex genetic etiology has been confirmed with the identification of mutations in two genes, encoding for the receptor tyrosine kinase Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase (ALK) and the transcription factor Paired-like Homeobox 2B (PHOX2B), in a limited proportion of NB patients. Interestingly, these two genes are overexpressed in the great majority of primary NB samples and cell lines. These observations led us to test the hypothesis of a regulatory or functional relationship between ALK and PHOX2B underlying NB pathogenesis.
METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Following this possibility, we first confirmed a striking correlation between the transcription levels of ALK, PHOX2B and its direct target PHOX2A in a panel of NB cell lines. Then, we manipulated their expression in NB cell lines by siRNA-mediated knock-down and forced over-expression of each gene under analysis. Surprisingly, PHOX2B- and PHOX2A-directed siRNAs efficiently downregulated each other as well as ALK gene and, consistently, the enhanced expression of PHOX2B in NB cells yielded an increment of ALK protein. We finally demonstrated that PHOX2B drives ALK gene transcription by directly binding its promoter, which therefore represents a novel PHOX2B target.
CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: These findings provide a compelling explanation of the concurrent involvement of these two genes in NB pathogenesis and are going to foster a better understanding of molecular interactions at the base of the disease. Moreover, this work opens new perspectives for NBs refractory to conventional therapies that may benefit from the design of novel therapeutic RNAi-based approaches for multiple gene targets.

Janoueix-Lerosey I, Schleiermacher G, Delattre O
Molecular pathogenesis of peripheral neuroblastic tumors.
Oncogene. 2010; 29(11):1566-79 [PubMed] Related Publications
Neuroblastoma (NB) is an embryonal cancer of the sympathetic nervous system observed in early childhood, characterized by a broad spectrum of clinical behaviors, ranging from spontaneous regression to fatal outcome despite aggressive therapies. NB accounts for 8-10% of pediatric cancers and 15% of the deaths attributable to malignant conditions in children. Interestingly, NB may occur in various contexts, being mostly sporadic but also familial or syndromic. This review focuses on recent advances in the identification of the genes and mechanisms implicated in NB pathogenesis. Although the extensive characterization of the genomic aberrations recurrently observed in sporadic NBs provides important insights into the understanding of the clinical heterogeneity of this neoplasm, analysis of familial and syndromic cases also unravels essential clues on the genetic bases of NB. Recently, the ALK gene emerged as an important NB gene, being implicated both in sporadic and familial cases. The identification of gene expression signatures associated with patient's outcome points out the potential of using gene expression profiling to improve clinical management of patients suffering from NB. Finally, based on recent observations integrating genomic analyses, biological data and clinical information, we discuss possible evolution/progression schemes in NB.

Reiff T, Tsarovina K, Majdazari A, et al.
Neuroblastoma phox2b variants stimulate proliferation and dedifferentiation of immature sympathetic neurons.
J Neurosci. 2010; 30(3):905-15 [PubMed] Related Publications
Neuroblastoma is a pediatric tumor that is thought to arise from autonomic precursors in the neural crest. Mutations in the PHOX2B gene have been observed in familial and sporadic forms of neuroblastoma and represent the first defined genetic predisposition for neuroblastoma. Here, we address the mechanisms that may underlie this predisposition, comparing the function of wild-type and mutant Phox2b proteins ectopically expressed in proliferating, embryonic sympathetic neurons. Phox2b displays a strong antiproliferative effect, which is lost in all Phox2b neuroblastoma variants analyzed. In contrast, an increase in sympathetic neuron proliferation is elicited by Phox2b variants with mutations in the homeodomain when endogenous Phox2b levels are lowered by siRNA-mediated knockdown to mimic the situation of heterozygous PHOX2B mutations in neuroblastoma. The increased proliferation is blocked by Hand2 knockdown and the antiproliferative Phox2b effects are rescued by Hand2 overexpression, implying Hand2 in Phox2b-mediated proliferation control. A Phox2b variant with a nonsense mutation in the homeodomain elicits, in addition, a decreased expression of characteristic marker genes. Together, these results suggest that PHOX2B mutations predispose to neuroblastoma by increasing proliferation and promoting dedifferentiation of cells in the sympathoadrenergic lineage.

Abbaszadeh F, Barker KT, McConville C, et al.
A new familial cancer syndrome including predisposition to Wilms tumor and neuroblastoma.
Fam Cancer. 2010; 9(3):425-30 [PubMed] Related Publications
Wilms tumor and neuroblastoma are childhood tumors of the kidney and undifferentiated neural crest cells, respectively. Both disorders are primarily sporadic, but familial Wilms tumor pedigrees and familial neuroblastoma pedigrees are each well recognized and account for approximately 1-3% of each tumor type. Families with Wilms tumor and neuroblastoma in the same, or related individuals, have not been reported. Here, we present nine families with two or more individuals with Wilms tumor and/or neuroblastoma. The affected individuals were otherwise well, without syndromic features. Although this co-occurrence might be due to chance in some families, the coexistence of two rare embryonal tumors in related individuals of multiple families suggests an underlying genetic susceptibility to both tumors. We undertook mutational analysis of the genes known to predispose to non-syndromic familial Wilms tumor (WT1) or neuroblastoma (PHOX2B, ALK) which excluded these as the underlying predisposition genes in the nine families. We also excluded epigenetic and copy-number abnormalities at 11p15 which are known to predispose to embryonal tumors including Wilms tumor and neuroblastoma. Overall, these data suggest that families with both Wilms tumor and neuroblastoma represent a previously unrecognized familial cancer syndrome in which the underlying predisposition gene(s) remain to be determined.

Bourdeaut F, Janoueix-Lerosey I, Lucchesi C, et al.
Cholinergic switch associated with morphological differentiation in neuroblastoma.
J Pathol. 2009; 219(4):463-72 [PubMed] Related Publications
The morphology of malignant cells distinguishes between undifferentiated, poorly differentiated and differentiating neuroblastomas and constitutes a strong prognostic factor. Spontaneous or treatment-induced maturation characterizes a subset of neuroblastomas. It constitutes the basis of retinoic acid treatment to improve survival in aggressive neuroblastomas. However, the molecular events that drive differentiation are poorly understood. In the present study we have investigated the relationships between gene expression profiles and differentiation criteria in stroma-poor neuroblastomas. This study included three undifferentiated (UN), 20 poorly differentiated (PDN) and 11 differentiating (DN) neuroblastomas. These groups could be clearly separated using unsupervised clustering methods, which further enabled a major classification impact of genes involved in neural development, differentiation and function to be identified. UNs are characterized by high ASCL1, high PHOX2B, low GATA2, low TH and low DBH expressions. Most PDNs harbour a clear adrenergic phenotype, even in the presence of missense PHOX2B mutations. Finally, all DN tumours demonstrate cholinergic features. Depending upon their association with adrenergic characteristics, this enables dual 'cholinergic/adrenergic' and 'fully cholinergic' neuroblastomas to be defined. This suggests that the cholinergic switch, a final specification process that occurs physiologically in a minority of sympathetic neurons, is a critical step of differentiation in some neuroblastic tumours. This switch is associated with a down regulation of DBH that is apparently not strictly dependent upon PHOX2B. Conversely, GATA2 and TFAP2B may play critical roles in maintaining adrenergic features in poorly differentiated tumours.

Alam G, Cui H, Shi H, et al.
MYCN promotes the expansion of Phox2B-positive neuronal progenitors to drive neuroblastoma development.
Am J Pathol. 2009; 175(2):856-66 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Amplification of the oncogene MYCN is a tumorigenic event in the development of a subset of neuroblastomas that commonly consist of undifferentiated or poorly differentiated neuroblasts with unfavorable clinical outcome. The cellular origin of these neuroblasts is unknown. Additionally, the cellular functions and target cells of MYCN in neuroblastoma development remain undefined. Here we examine the cell types that drive neuroblastoma development in TH-MYCN transgenic mice, an animal model of the human disease. Neuroblastoma development in these mice begins with hyperplastic lesions in early postnatal sympathetic ganglia. We show that both hyperplasia and primary tumors are composed predominantly of highly proliferative Phox2B(+) neuronal progenitors. MYCN induces the expansion of these progenitors by both promoting their proliferation and preventing their differentiation. We further identify a minor population of undifferentiated nestin(+) cells in both hyperplastic lesions and primary tumors that may serve as precursors of Phox2B(+) neuronal progenitors. These findings establish the identity of neuroblasts that characterize the tumor phenotype and suggest a cellular pathway by which MYCN can promote neuroblastoma development.

Stutterheim J, Gerritsen A, Zappeij-Kannegieter L, et al.
Detecting minimal residual disease in neuroblastoma: the superiority of a panel of real-time quantitative PCR markers.
Clin Chem. 2009; 55(7):1316-26 [PubMed] Related Publications
BACKGROUND: PCR-based detection of minimal residual disease (MRD) in neuroblastoma (NB) patients can be used for initial staging and monitoring therapy response in bone marrow (BM) and peripheral blood (PB). PHOX2B has been identified as a sensitive and specific MRD marker; however, its expression varies between tumors. Therefore, a panel of markers could increase sensitivity.
METHODS: To identify additional MRD markers for NB, we selected genes by comparing SAGE (serial analysis of gene expression) libraries of healthy and NB tissues followed by extensive real-time quantitative PCR (RQ-PCR) testing in samples of tumors (n = 56), control BM (n = 51), PB (n = 37), and cell subsets. The additional value of a panel was determined in 222 NB samples from 82 Dutch stage 4 NB patients (54 diagnosis BM samples, 143 BM samples during/after treatment, and 25 PB samples).
RESULTS: We identified 2 panels of specific RQ-PCR markers for MRD detection in NB patients: 1 for analysis of BM samples (PHOX2B, TH, DDC, CHRNA3, and GAP43) and 1 for analysis of PB samples (PHOX2B, TH, DDC, DBH, and CHRNA3). These markers all showed high expression in NB tumors and no or low expression in control BM or PB samples. In patients' samples, the PHOX2B marker detected most positive samples. In PB samples, however, 3 of 7 PHOX2B-negative samples were positive for 1 or more markers, and in BM examinations during treatment, 7% (6 of 86) of the PHOX2B-negative samples were positive for another marker.
CONCLUSIONS: Because of differences in the sensitivities of the markers in BM and PB, we advise the use of 2 different panels to detect MRD in these compartments.

Lan MS, Breslin MB
Structure, expression, and biological function of INSM1 transcription factor in neuroendocrine differentiation.
FASEB J. 2009; 23(7):2024-33 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Zinc-finger transcription factors are DNA-binding proteins that are implicated in many diverse biological functions. INSM1 (formerly IA-1) contains five zinc-finger motifs and functions as a transcription factor. INSM1 protein structure is highly conserved in homologues of different species. It is predominantly expressed in developing neuroendocrine tissues and the nervous system in mammals. INSM1 represents an important player in early embryonic neurogenesis. In pancreatic endocrine cell differentiation, Ngn3 first activates INSM1 and subsequently NeuroD/beta2. Conversely, INSM1 exerts a feedback mechanism to suppress NeuroD/beta2 and its own gene expression. INSM1 gene ablation in the mouse results in the impairment of pancreatic endocrine cell maturation. Further, deletion of INSM1 severely impairs catecholamine biosynthesis and secretion from the adrenal gland that results in early embryonic lethality. Genetically, INSM1 acts as a downstream factor of Mash 1 and Phox2b in the differentiation of the sympatho-adrenal lineage. In the developing neocortex, mouse embryos lacking INSM1 expression contain half the number of basal progenitors and show a reduction in cortical plate radial thickness. Cell signaling studies reveal that INSM1 contributes to the induction of cell cycle arrest/exit necessary to facilitate cellular differentiation. INSM1 is highly expressed in tumors of neuroendocrine origin. Hence, its promoter could serve as a tumor-specific promoter that drives a specific targeted cancer gene therapy for the treatment of neuroendocrine tumors. Taken together, all of these features of INSM1 strongly support its role as an important regulator during neuroendocrine differentiation.

Acosta S, Lavarino C, Paris R, et al.
Comprehensive characterization of neuroblastoma cell line subtypes reveals bilineage potential similar to neural crest stem cells.
BMC Dev Biol. 2009; 9:12 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Neuroblastic tumors (NBT) derive from neural crest stem cells (NCSC). Histologically, NBT are composed by neuroblasts and Schwannian cells. In culture, neuroblastic (N-), substrate-adherent (S-) and intermediate phenotype (I-) cell subtypes arise spontaneously.
METHODS: Here, neuroblastoma (NB) cell line subtypes were characterized according to embryonic peripheral nervous system development markers (GAP43, Phox2b, Sox10, c-kit, GD2, NF68, vimentin, S100beta, calcyclin and ABCG2), morphological features, gene expression and differentiation potential. I-type cells were investigated as a bipotential (neuronal and glial) differentiation stage.
RESULTS: Positive immunostaining of NCSC (GAP43, c-kit, NF68, vimentin and Phox2b) and undifferentiated cell (ABCG2) markers was observed in all NB subtypes. N- and I-type cells displayed cytoplasmic membrane GD2 staining, while nuclear calcyclin was restricted to S-type. N- and I-type cells showed similar phenotype and immunoreactivity pattern. Differential gene expression was associated with each cell subtype. N- and I-type cells displayed similar differentiation capacity towards neuronal and glial lineage fates. S-type cells, upon induction, did not show a neuronal-like phenotype, despite gene expression changes.
CONCLUSION: Results suggest that N- and I-type NB cell subtypes represent an immature bilineage stage, able to progress towards neuronal and glial fates upon induction of differentiation. S-type cells appear irreversibly committed to a glial lineage fate.

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