Identification, functional characterization, and pathobiological significance of GLI1 isoforms in human cancers.
Glioma-associated oncogene homolog 1 (GLI1) is the nuclear mediator of Hedgehog signaling that activates gene transcription via its zinc finger DNA-binding and transactivation domains. GLI1 plays a critical role in several cellular processes, including embryonic development, tumorigenesis, and tumor growth and progression. The human GLI1 gene was identified in 1987 as an amplified gene in glioblastoma. Somatic mutations have never been reported in the GLI1 gene in any cell or tumor type. Very recently in 2008-2009, the full-length GLI1 transcript was discovered to undergo alternative splicing to form two shorter isoforms, namely N-terminal deletion variant (GLI1ΔN) and truncated GLI1 (tGLI1). Emerging evidence suggests that the three structurally different GLI1 isoforms are distinctly different in their expression patterns and functions in the context of human cancers. The tGLI1 isoform, in particular, has been shown to gain the ability to modulate expression of the genes that are not regulated by GLI1 and to support the biology of more aggressive cancer. Consequently, a key focus of this chapter is to summarize and compare the properties of the three GLI1 isoforms and their relations to malignant biology of human cancers.
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