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Growth regulatory factors and signalling proteins in testicular germ cell tumours

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Devouassoux-Shisheboran M, Mauduit C, Tabone E, Droz JP, Benahmed M. Growth regulatory factors and signalling proteins in testicular germ cell tumours. APMIS 2003;111:212–24.

The molecular basis of testicular germ cell tumourigenesis are not well elucidated. Growth factors regulate cell growth, differentiation and apoptosis. Major families of growth factors are present in the male gonad from early fetal development to adult life. They are involved in germ cell proliferation and differentiation. Growth signalling pathways suffer deregulation in many human malignancies. Given the importance of growth signals in normal testicular development and their acquired deregulation in most human cancers, growth factors and signalling molecules that have been implicated in the genesis of testicular germ cell tumours, are reviewed. We detected a somatic mutation of SMAD4 gene, responsible for loss of protein function in seminomas. This mutational inactivation may affect the activity of several members of TGFβ superfamily (TGFβ, activin, inhibin, BMP). VEGF expression has been shown to predict metastasis in seminomas. A significant association of HST-1 expression, a member of fibroblast growth factors, with the nonseminomatous phenotype and with tumour stage has been described. In contrast, C-KIT is expressed by seminomas only, from the preinvasive stage. Despite intense expression in almost all seminomas, activating mutation of C-KIT gene is seldom reported. Recently, the first animal model of classical testicular seminoma has been identified in transgenic mouse overexpressing GDNF. RET (GDNF receptor) expression is demonstrated in human seminomas, and not in nonseminomatous tumours. However, the exact molecular alterations of GDNF/RET/GFRα1 complex in germ cell tumours are not known. Finally, beside growth factors, other signalling molecules such as peptide hormones may be involved in testicular carcinogenesis. We have demonstrated a specific pattern of somatostatin receptors expression in each type of testicular germ cell tumours, with a loss of sst3 and sst4 in seminomas and loss of sst4 and expression of sst1 in nonseminomas only. These data suggest an antiproliferative action of somatostatin in testicular cancers. In summary, many growth factors and signalling molecules seem to represent specific markers for different histological types of germ cell tumours (seminomas versus nonseminomas) and may play a role in the differentiation of germ cell tumours. Despite a complex signalling pathway involved in the physiological functions of male gonad, little is known about the implication of this signalling network in testicular malignancies. From a practical stand-point, further studies on the role of growth factors in human germ cell tumours may offer a new therapeutical perspective with the development of specific pharmacological signalling modulators that could be used as therapeutic agents.
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Keywords: C-KIT; GDNF; Germ cell tumours; SMAD; growth factor; signalling; somatostatin; testis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: INSERM 407, Faculté de Médecine Lyon Sud, BP 12, F-69921 Oullins, France

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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