Telomere elongation via alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT) and telomerase activation in primary metastatic medulloblastoma of childhood

Simone Minasi, Caterina Baldi, Torsten Pietsch, Vittoria Donofrio, Bianca Pollo, Manila Antonelli, Maura Massimino, Felice Giangaspero, Francesca Romana Buttarelli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

PURPOSE: Elongation of telomeres is necessary for tumor cell immortalization and senescence escape; neoplastic cells use to alternative pathways to elongate telomeres: telomerase reactivation or a telomerase-independent mechanism termed alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT). Telomerase and ALT pathway has been explored in adult and pediatric gliomas and medulloblastomas (MDBs); however, these mechanisms were not previously investigated in MDBs metastatic at the onset. Therefore, we analyzed the activation of telomerase and ALT pathway in a homogenous cohort of 43 pediatric metastatic medulloblastomas, to investigate whether telomere elongation could play a role in the biology of metastatic MDB.

METHODS: We evaluated telomeres length via telomere-specific fluorescence in situ hybridization (Telo-FISH); we assessed nuclear expression of ATRX by immunohistochemistry (IHC). H3F3A and TERT promoter mutations were analyzed by pyrosequencing, while UTSS methylation status was analyzed via methylation-specific-PCR (MS-PCR).

RESULTS: H3F3A mutations were absent in all MDBs, 30% of samples showed ATRX nuclear loss, 18.2% of cases were characterized by TERT promoter mutations, while 60.9% harboured TERT promoter hyper-methylation in the UTSS region. Elongation of telomeres was found in 42.8% of cases. Metastatic MDBs control telomere elongation via telomerase activation (10.7%), induced by TERT promoter mutations in association with UTSS hyper-methylation, and ALT mechanism (32.1%), triggered by ATRX inactivation. Among non-metastatic MDBs, only 5.9% (1/17) showed ATRX nuclear loss with activation of ALT.

CONCLUSIONS: Our metastatic cases frequently activate ALT pathway, suggesting that it is a common process for senescence escape in primary metastatic medulloblastomas. Furthermore, the activation of mechanisms for telomere elongation is not restricted to certain molecular subgroups in this high-risk group of MDBs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-444
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuro-Oncology
Volume142
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2019

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