Pilocytic astrocytomas (PAs) are WHO grade I brain tumors that do not typically progress to more malignant grades of astrocytoma. Whereas there have been significant advances in the molecular genetics of high-grade astrocytomas, relatively little is known about the genetic changes associated with PA formation. In an effort to better characterize these low-grade neoplasms, we compared the gene expression profiles of six sporadic and two neurofibromatosis 1-associated PAs with other tissues and cell lines of both astrocytic and oligodendroglial origin. Hierarchical cluster analysis of gene expression data clearly delineated PAs from low-grade oligodendrogliomas and normal white matter. The two NF1-associated tumors and one of the sporadic PAs displayed expression profiles that were more closely related to those of cultured normal human fetal astrocytes. However, PAs also expressed individual genes typically associated with oligodendroglial lineage (e.g., proteolipid protein and PMP-22). The expression patterns of specific genes (e.g., ApoD) were unique to PA tumors, whereas genetic changes characteristic of high-grade astrocytomas were not encountered. Differential expression of two transcripts, neural cellular adhesion molecule and connexin-43, was confirmed at the protein level, suggesting that these cell adhesion molecules might be particularly important in the molecular pathogenesis of these tumors. We conclude that PAs are genetically unique gliomas with gene expression profiles that resemble those of fetal astrocytes and, to a lesser extent, oligodendroglial precursors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2085-2091
Number of pages7
JournalCancer research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2002


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