Human fetal neuroblast and neuroblastoma transcriptome analysis confirms neuroblast origin and highlights neuroblastoma candidate genes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Neuroblastoma tumor cells are assumed to originate from primitive neuroblasts giving rise to the sympathetic nervous system. Because these precursor cells are not detectable in postnatal life, their transcription profile has remained inaccessible for comparative data mining strategies in neuroblastoma. This study provides the first genome-wide mRNA expression profile of these human fetal sympathetic neuroblasts. To this purpose, small islets of normal neuroblasts were isolated by laser microdissection from human fetal adrenal glands. Results: Expression of catecholamine metabolism genes, and neuronal and neuroendocrine markers in the neuroblasts indicated that the proper cells were microdissected. The similarities in expression profile between normal neuroblasts and malignant neuroblastomas provided strong evidence for the neuroblast origin hypothesis of neuroblastoma. Next, supervised feature selection was used to identify the genes that are differentially expressed in normal neuroblasts versus neuroblastoma tumors. This approach efficiently sifted out genes previously reported in neuroblastoma expression profiling studies; most importantly, it also highlighted a series of genes and pathways previously not mentioned in neuroblastoma biology but that were assumed to be involved in neuroblastoma pathogenesis. Conclusion: This unique dataset adds power to ongoing and future gene expression studies in neuroblastoma and will facilitate the identification of molecular targets for novel therapies. In addition, this neuroblast transcriptome resource could prove useful for the further study of human sympathoadrenal biogenesis.


  • Katleen De Preter
  • Jo Vandesompele
  • Pierre Heimann
  • Nurten Yigit
  • Siv Beckman
  • Alexander Schramm
  • Angelika Eggert
  • Raymond L. Stallings
  • Yves Benoit
  • Marleen Renard
  • Anne De Paepe
  • Genevieve Laureys
  • Sven Påhlman
  • Frank Speleman
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cancer and Oncology
Original languageEnglish
JournalGenome Biology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Molecular Medicine (013031200)