Influence of Nodal signalling on pluripotency factor expression, tumour cell proliferation and cisplatin-sensitivity in testicular germ cell tumours.

Testicular germ cell tumours (TGCTs) are characterised by an overall high cisplatin-sensitivity which has been linked to their continued expression of pluripotency factors. Recently, the Nodal signalling pathway has been implicated in the regulation of pluripotency factor expression in fetal germ cells, and the pathway could therefore also be involved in regulating expression of pluripotency factors in malignant germ cells, and hence cisplatin-sensitivity in TGCTs.

We used in vitro culture of the TGCT-derived cell line NTera2, ex vivo tissue culture of primary TGCT specimens and xenografting of NTera2 cells into nude mice in order to investigate the consequences of manipulating Nodal and Activin signalling on pluripotency factor expression, apoptosis, proliferation and cisplatin-sensitivity.

The Nodal signalling factors were markedly expressed concomitantly with the pluripotency factor OCT4 in GCNIS cells, seminomas and embryonal carcinomas. Despite this, inhibition of Nodal and Activin signalling either alone or simultaneously did not affect proliferation or apoptosis in malignant germ cells in vitro or ex vivo. Interestingly, inhibition of Nodal signalling in vitro reduced the expression of pluripotency factors and Nodal pathway genes, while stimulation of the pathway increased their expression. However, cisplatin-sensitivity was not affected following pharmacological inhibition of Nodal/Activin signalling or siRNA-mediated knockdown of the obligate co-receptor CRIPTO in NTera2 cells in vitro or in a xenograft model.

Our findings suggest that the Nodal signalling pathway may be involved in regulating pluripotency factor expression in malignant germ cells, but manipulation of the pathway does not appear to affect cisplatin-sensitivity or tumour cell proliferation.

BMC cancer. 2020 Apr 23*** epublish ***

K Harpelunde Poulsen, J E Nielsen, B Grønkær Toft, U N Joensen, L J Rasmussen, M Blomberg Jensen, R T Mitchell, A Juul, E Rajpert-De Meyts, A Jørgensen

Department of Growth and Reproduction, Copenhagen University Hospital (Rigshospitalet), Blegdamsvej 9, DK-2100, Copenhagen, Denmark., Pathology Department, Copenhagen University Hospital (Rigshospitalet), Blegdamsvej 9, 2100, Copenhagen, Denmark., Department of Urology, Copenhagen University Hospital (Rigshospitalet), Blegdamsvej 9, 2100, Copenhagen, Denmark., Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Center for Healthy Aging, University of Copenhagen, Blegdamsvej 3B, 2200, Copenhagen, Denmark., MRC Centre for Reproductive Health, The Queen's Medical Research Institute, University of Edinburgh, 47 Little France Crescent, Edinburgh, EH16 4TJ, UK., Department of Growth and Reproduction, Copenhagen University Hospital (Rigshospitalet), Blegdamsvej 9, DK-2100, Copenhagen, Denmark. .

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