[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Medulloblastoma encompasses a collection of clinically and molecularly diverse tumour subtypes that together comprise the most common malignant childhood brain tumour. These tumours are thought to arise within the cerebellum, with approximately 25% originating from granule neuron precursor cells (GNPCs) after aberrant activation of the Sonic Hedgehog pathway (hereafter, SHH subtype). The pathological processes that drive heterogeneity among the other medulloblastoma subtypes are not known, hindering the development of much needed new therapies. Here we provide evidence that a discrete subtype of medulloblastoma that contains activating mutations in the WNT pathway effector CTNNB1 (hereafter, WNT subtype) arises outside the cerebellum from cells of the dorsal brainstem. We found that genes marking human WNT-subtype medulloblastomas are more frequently expressed in the lower rhombic lip (LRL) and embryonic dorsal brainstem than in the upper rhombic lip (URL) and developing cerebellum. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and intra-operative reports showed that human WNT-subtype tumours infiltrate the dorsal brainstem, whereas SHH-subtype tumours are located within the cerebellar hemispheres. Activating mutations in Ctnnb1 had little impact on progenitor cell populations in the cerebellum, but caused the abnormal accumulation of cells on the embryonic dorsal brainstem which included aberrantly proliferating Zic1(+) precursor cells. These lesions persisted in all mutant adult mice; moreover, in 15% of cases in which Tp53 was concurrently deleted, they progressed to form medulloblastomas that recapitulated the anatomy and gene expression profiles of human WNT-subtype medulloblastoma. We provide the first evidence, to our knowledge, that subtypes of medulloblastoma have distinct cellular origins. Our data provide an explanation for the marked molecular and clinical differences between SHH- and WNT-subtype medulloblastomas and have profound implications for future research and treatment of this important childhood cancer.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Understanding the biology that underlies histologically similar but molecularly distinct subgroups of cancer has proven difficult because their defining genetic alterations are often numerous, and the cellular origins of most cancers remain unknown. We sought to decipher this heterogeneity by integrating matched genetic alterations and candidate cells of origin to generate accurate disease models. First, we identified subgroups of human ependymoma, a form of neural tumour that arises throughout the central nervous system (CNS). Subgroup-specific alterations included amplifications and homozygous deletions of genes not yet implicated in ependymoma. To select cellular compartments most likely to give rise to subgroups of ependymoma, we matched the transcriptomes of human tumours to those of mouse neural stem cells (NSCs), isolated from different regions of the CNS at different developmental stages, with an intact or deleted Ink4a/Arf locus (that encodes Cdkn2a and b). The transcriptome of human supratentorial ependymomas with amplified EPHB2 and deleted INK4A/ARF matched only that of embryonic cerebral Ink4a/Arf(-/-) NSCs. Notably, activation of Ephb2 signalling in these, but not other, NSCs generated the first mouse model of ependymoma, which is highly penetrant and accurately models the histology and transcriptome of one subgroup of human supratentorial tumour. Further, comparative analysis of matched mouse and human tumours revealed selective deregulation in the expression and copy number of genes that control synaptogenesis, pinpointing disruption of this pathway as a critical event in the production of this ependymoma subgroup. Our data demonstrate the power of cross-species genomics to meticulously match subgroup-specific driver mutations with cellular compartments to model and interrogate cancer subgroups.