The gli gene, originally identified by its amplified copy number in cells from a human malignant glioma, has a predicted translation product that contains five tandem DNA-binding zinc finger motifs related to those of Krüppel, a developmentally important Drosophila segmentation gene. Because of the potential importance of overproduction of this protein in neoplastic development, we examined DNAs from 29 cases of childhood sarcoma for evidence of amplification of the gli gene. In one of the 13 rhabdomyosarcomas studied, genomic DNA restriction fragments containing the gli gene were amplified approximately 30-fold, and expression of the 4.0-kilobase gli mRNA transcript was identified. The tumor with gli gene amplification lacked the usual histological features of alveolar or embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma; however, ultrastructural analysis of tumor cells established in culture revealed attenuated sarcomeres, resembling those found in primitive rhabdomyoblasts. Cytogenetic analysis of this cell line disclosed double-minute chromatin bodies, with no apparent rearrangements in the region of the gli locus on the long arm of chromosome 12, bands q13 to q14.3. A 15-fold level of gli amplification and gli mRNA transcripts were also detected in an established cell line from a patient with a rare form of osteosarcoma characterized by multipotential histological features. A similar level of gli gene amplification was observed in cryopreserved primary tumor cells from this patient, confirming that gene amplification took place during tumor development and not during in vitro cell culture. Amplified gli sequences were cytogenetically localized by in situ hybridization to a homogeneously staining region contained on a derivative chromosome 7. Of eight osteosarcomas and seven Ewing's sarcomas with typical histopathological features, none had detectable rearrangements or amplification of gli sequences. Thus, gli gene amplification in childhood sarcomas appears restricted to tumors with primitive histopathological features, perhaps reflecting overproduction of a gene product able to influence gene expression during early mesenchymal cell development.


Supported in part by Grant CA-23099 and Cancer Center Support (CORE) Grant CA-21765 from the National Cancer Institute, NIH, and by the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities.

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