Background: Testicular germ cell tumors (TGCTs) are classified as seminonas or non-seminomas of which a major subset is embryonal carcinoma (EC) that can differentiate into diverse tissues. The pluripotent nature of human ECs resembles that of embryonic stem (ES) cells. Many Wnt signalling species are regulated during differentiation of TGCT-derived EC cells. This study comprehensively investigated expression profiles of Wnt signalling components regulated during induced differentiation of EC cells and explored the role of key components in maintaining pluripotency. Methods: Human embryonal carcinoma cells were stably infected with a lentiviral construct carrying a canonical Wnt responsive reporter to assess Wnt signalling activity following induced differentiation. Cells were differentiated with all-trans retinoic acid (RA) or by targeted repression of pluripotency factor, POU5F1. A Wnt pathway real-time-PCR array was used to evaluate changes in gene expression as cells differentiated. Highlighted Wnt pathway genes were then specifically repressed using siRNA or stable shRNA and transfected EC cells were assessed for proliferation, differentiation status and levels of core pluripotency genes. Results: Canonical Wnt signalling activity was low basally in undifferentiated EC cells, but substantially increased with induced differentiation. Wnt pathway gene expression levels were compared during induced differentiation and many components were altered including ligands (WNT2B), receptors (FZD5, FZD6, FZD10), secreted inhibitors (SFRP4, SFRP1), and other effectors of Wnt signalling (FRAT2, DAAM1, PITX2, Porcupine). Independent repression of FZD5, FZD7 and WNT5A using transient as well as stable methods of RNA interference (RNAi) inhibited cell growth of pluripotent NT2/D1 human EC cells, but did not appreciably induce differentiation or repress key pluripotency genes. Silencing of FZD7 gave the greatest growth suppression in all human EC cell lines tested including NT2/D1, NT2/D1-R1, Tera-1 and 833K cells. Conclusion: During induced differentiation of human EC cells, the Wnt signalling pathway is reprogrammed and canonical Wnt signalling induced. Specific species regulating non-canonical Wnt signalling conferred growth inhibition when targeted for repression in these EC cells. Notably, FZD7 repression significantly inhibited growth of human EC cells and is a promising therapeutic target for TGCTs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research