The Role of FGF Signaling During Granule Neuron Precursor Development and Tumorigenesis
Development requires a delicate balance of proliferation and differentiation. Too little proliferation can result in dysfunctional tissues, while prolonged or heightened proliferation can result in tumor formation. This is clearly seen with the granule neuron precursors (GNPs) of the cerebellum. Too little proliferation of these cells during development results in ataxia, whereas too much proliferation results in the cerebellar tumor medulloblastoma. While these cells are known to proliferate in response to Shh, it is not clear what controls the differentiation of these cells in vivo.
Previous work from our lab has identified basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) as a candidate differentiation factor for these cells. In this thesis, I characterize some of the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in FGF-mediated inhibition (FMI) of Shh-induced GNP proliferation. In addition, I employ FGFR knockouts and a bFGF gain-of-function mouse to determine whether FGF signaling is necessary and/or sufficient for differentiation of GNPs during cerebellar development. Finally, the question of whether bFGF can be effective as a therapeutic agent for in vivo tumor treatment is tested in a transplant model.
These experiments indicate that FGF signaling is neither necessary nor sufficient for GNP differentiation during cerebellar development. However, transplanted tumors are potently inhibited by bFGF treatment. Furthermore, FMI is shown to occur around the level of Gli2 processing in the Shh pathway, implying that such a treatment has promise to be widely effective in treatment of Shh-dependent medulloblastomas.
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