Analysis of primary Wilms tumors for WT1 RNA processing alterations

Kerry Bryce Gunning, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Wilms tumor (WT) is an embryonal renal tumor with a heterogeneous genetic etiology that serves as a valuable model for studying tumorigenesis. Biallelic inactivation of the tumor suppressor gene WT1, a zinc-finger transcriptional regulator located at 11p13, is critical for the development of some Wilms tumors. Interestingly, WT1 genomic analysis has demonstrated mutations in less than 20% of WT cases. This suggests either other genes play a more major role in Wilms tumorigenesis or WT1 is functionally altered by mechanisms other than DNA mutation. Previous observations in rat and in WT xenograft cell lines have suggested that abnormal WT1 RNA processing (exon 6 RNA editing and aberrant exon 2 splicing, respectively) is a potential mechanism of altering WT1 function in the absence of a WT1 DNA mutation. However, the role of this abnormal RNA processing has not previously been assessed in primary Wilms tumors. To test the hypothesis that abnormal WT1 RNA processing is a mechanism of WT1alteration during tumor development, WT1 RNA from 85 primary tumors was analyzed using reverse transcription and polymerase chain reaction amplification (RT-PCR). Although no evidence for WT1 RNA editing was observed, variable levels (5% to 50%) of aberrant WT1 exon 2 splicing were detected for 11 tumors in the absence of a detectable WT1 DNA mutation. Also, alteration of normal WT1 alternative splicing, observed as RNA isoform loss, was detected in five tumors with no apparent WT1 genomic alteration, although no consistent pattern of RNA isoform loss was detected. This abnormal WT1 splicing, detected by either loss of exon 2 from some of the transcripts or loss of RNA isoforms, is statistically correlated with relapse (p = 0.005). These studies demonstrate that abnormal WT1 RNA processing is not a common mechanism of abrogating normal WT1 function in primary tumors. However, in those cases in which abnormal WTI splicing is present, these data indicate that it may serve as a useful prognostic marker for relapse in WT patients.

Subject Area

Genetics|Oncology|Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Gunning, Kerry Bryce, "Analysis of primary Wilms tumors for WT1 RNA processing alterations" (1999). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9934841.