Alteration of mesodermal cell differentiation by EWS/FLI-1, the oncogene implicated in Ewing's sarcoma

Susan Eliazer, Jeffrey Spencer, Dan Ye, Eric Olson, Robert L. Ilaria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


The chimeric fusion gene EWS/FLI-1 is detected in most cases of Ewing's sarcoma (ES), the second most common malignant bone tumor of childhood. Although 80% of ES tumors develop in skeletal sites, the remainder can arise in almost any soft tissue location. The lineage of the cell developing the EWS/FLI-1 gene fusion has not been fully characterized but is generally considered to be of either mesenchymal or neural crest origin. To study this oncogene in a conceptually relevant target cell, EWS/FLI-1 was introduced into the murine cell line C2C12, a myoblast cell line capable of differentiation into muscle, bone, or fat. In this cellular context, EWS/FLI-1 profoundly inhibited the myogenic differentiation program. The block in C2C12 myogenic differentiation required the nuclear localization and DNA-binding functions of EWS/FLI-1 and was mediated by transcriptional and posttranscriptional suppression of the myogenic transcription factors MyoD and myogenin. Interestingly, C2C12-EWS/FLI-1 cells constitutively expressed alkaline phosphatase, a bone lineage marker, and were alkaline phosphatase positive by histochemistry but showed no other evidence of bone lineage commitment. Consistent with recent findings in human ES tumor cell lines, C2C12-EWS/FLI-1 cells constitutively expressed cyclin D1 and demonstrated decreased expression of the cell cycle regulator p21cip1, even under differentiation conditions and at confluent density. This C2C12-EWS/FLI-1 cell model may assist in the identification of novel differentially expressed genes relevant to ES and provide further insight into the cell(s) of origin developing ES-associated genetic fusions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)482-492
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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