Context-dependent modulation of aggressiveness of pediatric tumors by individual oncogenic RAS isoforms

Julia Bauer, Nicole Cuvelier, Nada Ragab, Katja Simon-Keller, Frauke Nitzki, Natalie Geyer, Dominik S. Botermann, Dominik P. Elmer, Albert Rosenberger, Thomas A. Rando, Stefano Biressi, James A. Fagin, Dieter Saur, Christian Dullin, Hans Ulrich Schildhaus, Walter Schulz-Schaeffer, Fritz Aberger, Anja Uhmann, Heidi Hahn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


A prototypic pediatric cancer that frequently shows activation of RAS signaling is embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS). ERMS also show aberrant Hedgehog (HH)/GLI signaling activity and can be driven by germline mutations in this pathway. We show, that in ERMS cell lines derived from sporadic tumors i.e. from tumors not caused by an inherited genetic variant, HH/GLI signaling plays a subordinate role, because oncogenic mutations in HRAS, KRAS, or NRAS (collectively named oncRAS) inhibit the main HH target GLI1 via the MEK/ERK-axis, but simultaneously increase proliferation and tumorigenicity. oncRAS also modulate expression of stem cell markers in an isoform- and context-dependent manner. In Hh-driven murine ERMS that are caused by a Patched mutation, oncHRAS and mainly oncKRAS accelerate tumor development, whereas oncNRAS induces a more differentiated phenotype. These features occur when the oncRAS mutations are induced at the ERMS precursor stage, but not when induced in already established tumors. Moreover, in contrast to what is seen in human cell lines, oncRAS mutations do not alter Hh signaling activity and marginally affect expression of stem cell markers. Together, all three oncRAS mutations seem to be advantageous for ERMS cell lines despite inhibition of HH signaling and isoform-specific modulation of stem cell markers. In contrast, oncRAS mutations do not inhibit Hh-signaling in Hh-driven ERMS. In this model, oncRAS mutations seem to be advantageous for specific ERMS populations that occur within a specific time window during ERMS development. In addition, this window may be different for individual oncRAS isoforms, at least in the mouse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4955-4966
Number of pages12
Issue number31
StatePublished - 5 Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


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