Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Genes and Development

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Vicki Huff, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Michelle Barton, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Joseph Alcorn, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mong-Hong Lee, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Goka, Ph.D.


Wilms tumor (WT) is a childhood tumor of the kidney and a productive model for understanding the role of genetic alteration and interactions in tumorigenesis. The Wilms tumor gene 1 (WT1) is a transcriptional factor and one of the few genes known to have genetic alterations in WT and has been shown be inactivated in 20% of WTs. However, the mechanisms of how WT1 mutations lead to Wilms tumorigenesis and its influence on downstream genes are unknown. Since it has been established that WT1 is a transcriptional regulator, it has been hypothesized that the loss of WT1 leads to the dysregulation of downstream genes, in turn result in the formation of WTs. To identify the dysregulated downstream genes following WT1 mutations, an Affymetrix GeneChip Human Genome Array was previously conducted to assess the differentially expressed genes in the WT1-wildtype human and WT1-mutant human WTs. Approximately 700 genes were identified as being significantly dysregulated. These genes were further prioritized based on their statistical significance, fold change, chromosomal region, spatial pattern of gene expression and known or putative cellular functions. Mesenchyme homeobox 2 (MEOX2) was one of the most significantly upregulated genes in WT1-mutant WT. MEOX2 is known to play a role in cell proliferation, apoptosis, and differentiation. In addition to its biological roles, it is expressed during early kidney development in the condensed mesenchyme similar to WT1. Furthermore, the use of the Match® web-based tool from the BIOBASE Biological Data base identified a significant predicted WT1 binding site within the first intron of MEOX2. The similarity in spatial gene expression in the developing kidney and the significant predicted WT1 binding site found in the first intron of MEOX2 lead to the development of my hypothesis that MEOX2 is upregulated via a WT1-dependent manner.

Here as a part of my master’s work, I have validated the Affymetrix GeneChip Human Genome Array data using an independent set of Wilms tumors. MEOX2 remained upregulated in the mutant WT1 Wilms tumor by 41-fold. Wt1 and Meox2 gene expression were assessed in murine newborn kidney; both Wt1 and Meox2 were expressed in the condensed, undifferentiated metanephric mesenchyme. I have shown that the in vivo ablation of Wt1 during embryonic development at embryonic day (E) 13.5 resulted in the slight increase of Meox2 gene expression by two fold. In order to functionally demonstrate the effect of the loss of Wt1 on Meox2 gene expression in undifferentiated metanephric mesenchyme, I have generated a kidney mesenchymal cell line to genetically ablate Wt1 in vitro by adenoviral infection. The ablation of Wt1 in the kidney mesenchymal cell line resulted in the upregulation of Meox2 by 61-fold. Moreover, the upregulation of Meox2 resulted in the significant induction of p21 and Itgb5. In addition to the dysregulation of these genes the ablation of Wt1 in the kidney mesenchymal cells resulted in decrease in cell growth and loss of cellular adherence. However, it is uncertain whether the upregulation of Meox2 caused this particular cellular phenotype. Overall, I have demonstrated that the upregulation of Meox2 is Wt1-dependent during early kidney development.


Wilms Tumor, WT1, MEOX2, Kidney Development, Kidney Murine Mesenchymal Cells