Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Vicki Huff, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lynne Abruzzo, M.D., Ph.D.

Committee Member

Swathi Arur, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Gregory May, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lalitha Nagarajan, Ph.D.


Wilms tumor is a childhood tumor of the kidney arising from the undifferentiated metanephric mesenchyme. Tumorigenesis is attributed to a number of genetic and epigenetic alterations. In 20% of Wilms tumors, Wilms tumor gene 1 (WT1) undergoes inactivating homozygous mutations causing loss of function of the zinc finger transcription factor it encodes. It is hypothesized that mutations in WT1 result in dysregulation of downstream target genes, leading to aberrant kidney development and/or Wilms tumor. These downstream target genes are largely unknown, and identification is important for further understanding Wilms tumor development. Heatmap data of human Wilms tumor protein expression, generated by reverse phase protein assay analysis (RPPA), show significant correlation between WT1 mutation status and low PRKCα expression (p= 0.00013); additionally, p-PRKCα (S657) also shows decreased expression in these samples (p= 0.00373). These data suggest that the WT1 transcription factor regulates PRKCα expression, and that PRKCα plays a potential role in Wilms tumor tumorigenesis. We hypothesize that the WT1 transcription factor directly/indirectly regulates PRKCα and mutations occurring in WT1 lead to decreased expression of PRKCα. Prkcα and Wt1 have been shown to co-localize in E14.5 mesenchymal cells of the developing kidney. siRNA knockdown, in-vivo ablation, and tet-inducible expression of Wt1 each independently confirm regulation of Prkcα expression by Wt1 at both RNA and protein levels, and investigation into possible WT1 binding sites in PRKCα regulatory regions has identified multiple sites to be confirmed by luciferase reporter constructs. With the goal of identifying WT1 and PRKCα downstream targets, RPPA analysis of protein expression in mesenchymal cell culture, following lentiviral delivered shRNA knockdown of Wt1 and shRNA knockdown of Prkcα, will be carried out.

Apart from Wilms tumor, WT1 also plays an important role in Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). WT1 mutation status has been implicated, controversially, as an independent poor-prognosis factor in leukemia, leading to decreased probability of overall survival, complete remission, and disease free survival. RPPA analysis of AML patient samples showed significant decreases in PRKCα/p-PRKCα protein expression in a subset of patients (Kornblau, personal communication); therefore, the possible role of WT1 and PRKCα in leukemia disease progression is an additional focus of this study. WT1 mutation analysis of diploid leukemia patient samples revealed two patients with mutations predicted to affect WT1 activity; of these two samples, only one corresponded to the low PRKCα expression cohort. Further characterization of the role of WT1 in AML, and further understanding of WT1 regulated PRKCα expression, will be gained following RPPA analysis of protein expression in HL60 leukemia cell lines with lentiviral delivered shRNA knockdown of WT1 and shRNA knockdown of PRKCα.


PRKCa, Wilms tumor, WT1, leukemia, AML



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