Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a pediatric soft tissue sarcoma that histologically resembles embryonic skeletal muscle. RMS occurs throughout the body and an exclusively myogenic origin does not account for RMS occurring in sites devoid of skeletal muscle. We previously described an RMS model activating a conditional constitutively active Smoothened mutant (SmoM2) with aP2-Cre. Using genetic fate mapping, we show SmoM2 expression in Cre-expressing endothelial progenitors results in myogenic transdifferentiation and RMS. We show that endothelium and skeletal muscle within the head and neck arise from Kdr-expressing progenitors, and that hedgehog pathway activation results in aberrant expression of myogenic specification factors as a potential mechanism driving RMS genesis. These findings suggest that RMS can originate from aberrant development of non-myogenic cells.
Reck, a GPI-anchored membrane protein, and Gpr124, an orphan GPCR, have been implicated in Wnt7a/Wnt7b signaling in the CNS vasculature. We show here that vascular endothelial cell (EC)-specific reduction in Reck impairs CNS angiogenesis and that EC-specific postnatal loss of Reck, combined with loss of Norrin, impairs blood-brain barrier (BBB) maintenance. The most N-terminal domain of Reck binds to the leucine-rich repeat (LRR) and immunoglobulin (Ig) domains of Gpr124, and weakening this interaction by targeted mutagenesis reduces Reck/Gpr124 stimulation of Wnt7a signaling in cell culture and impairs CNS angiogenesis. Finally, a soluble Gpr124(LRR-Ig) probe binds to cells expressing Frizzled, Wnt7a or Wnt7b, and Reck, and a soluble Reck(CC1-5) probe binds to cells expressing Frizzled, Wnt7a or Wnt7b, and Gpr124. These experiments indicate that Reck and Gpr124 are part of the cell surface protein complex that transduces Wnt7a- and Wnt7b-specific signals in mammalian CNS ECs to promote angiogenesis and regulate the BBB.
The tumor microenvironment is a critical modulator of carcinogenesis; however, in many tumor types, the influence of the stroma during preneoplastic stages is unknown. Here we explored the relationship between pre-tumor cells and their surrounding stroma in malignant progression of the cerebellar tumor medulloblastoma (MB). We show that activation of the vascular regulatory signalling axis mediated by Norrin (an atypical Wnt)/Frizzled4 (Fzd4) inhibits MB initiation in the Ptch+/- mouse model. Loss of Norrin/Fzd4-mediated signalling in endothelial cells, either genetically or by short-term blockade, increases the frequency of pre-tumor lesions and creates a tumor-permissive microenvironment at the earliest, preneoplastic stages of MB. This pro-tumor stroma, characterized by angiogenic remodelling, is associated with an accelerated transition from preneoplasia to malignancy. These data expose a stromal component that regulates the earliest stages of tumorigenesis in the cerebellum, and a novel role for the Norrin/Fzd4 axis as an endogenous anti-tumor signal in the preneoplastic niche.