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Tumor induction by ras and myc oncogenes in fetal and neonatal brain: modulating effects of developmental stage and retroviral dose


Introduction into fetal rat brain cells of a replication-defective retroviral vector harboring v-Ha-ras and v-gag-myc rapidly causes the induction of highly malignant undifferentiated neuroectodermal tumors following transplantation into the brains of syngeneic hosts [Wiestler, et al. (1992) Cancer Res. 52: 3760–3767]. In the present study, we have investigated the modulating effect of the developmental stage of neural target cells and of the dose of the retroviral vector used in the grafting experiments. Exposure of fetal cells from embryonic day (E)12 or E14 produced a 100% incidence of malignant neuroectodermal tumors which led to the death of recipient animals after a median latency period of 32 days. A 100-fold reduction of the virus dose from 2.062×106 to 2.062×104 focus-forming units/ml resulted in a lower tumor incidence of 25%. Of six neural grafts exposed to v-Ha-ras and v-myc at E16, only one showed evidence of tumorigenesis (low-grade astrocytoma and hemangioma). All other transplants were morphologically normal for observation periods of 26 weeks, indicating a marked loss of transforming activity of ras and myc in more advanced stages of brain development. In retrovirus-exposed donor cells which caused the development of neural tumors in recipient rats, malignant transformation was also evident during culture in vitro, usually after 9–12 days. Oncogene complementation was also studied in the newborn rat brain. After microinjection of the retroviral vector into the brain at postnatal day (P)0, P1 and P3, 5 out of 20 animals (25%) developed a total of seven brain tumors. Histopathologically, three of these neoplasms were malignant neuroectodermal tumors which, in contrast to those induced in fetal brain transplants showed evidence of focal glial and/or neuronal differentiation. In addition, we observed one oligodendroglioma, two hemangiomas and a malignant hemangioendothelioma. These data indicate that neural precursor cells and endothelia of the rat brain represent the major target cells for the complementary action of ras and myc and that the use of target cells from later developmental stages (E16 and postnatal) leads to the induction of both primitive and more differentiated neoplasms.

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Correspondence to Herbert Radner.

Additional information

These studies were supported by the Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung in Österreich (Erwin Schrödinger fellowship, JO501-MED), by the Swiss National Science Foundation and by the Cancer League of the Kanton of Zürich

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Radner, H., El-Shabrawi, Y., Eibl, R.H. et al. Tumor induction by ras and myc oncogenes in fetal and neonatal brain: modulating effects of developmental stage and retroviral dose. Acta Neuropathol 86, 456–465 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00228580

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Key words

  • Retroviral vectors
  • Oncogene-ras-myc
  • Grafting
  • Brain tumors