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Genetic background influences murine prostate gene expression: implications for cancer phenotypes

Daniella Bianchi-Frias, Colin Pritchard, Brigham H Mecham, Ilsa M Coleman and Peter S Nelson*

Author Affiliations

Divisions of Human Biology and Clinical Research, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Fairview Avenue, Seattle, WA 98109-1024, USA

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Genome Biology 2007, 8:R117  doi:10.1186/gb-2007-8-6-r117

Published: 18 June 2007



Cancer of the prostate is influenced by both genetic predisposition and environmental factors. The identification of genes capable of modulating cancer development has the potential to unravel disease heterogeneity and aid diagnostic and prevention strategies. To this end, mouse models have been developed to isolate the influences of individual genetic lesions in the context of consistent genotypes and environmental exposures. However, the normal prostatic phenotypic variability dictated by a genetic background that is potentially capable of influencing the process of carcinogenesis has not been established.


In this study we used microarray analysis to quantify transcript levels in the prostates of five commonly studied inbred mouse strains. We applied a multiclass response t-test and determined that approximately 13% (932 genes) exhibited differential expression (range 1.3-190-fold) in any one strain relative to other strains (false discovery rate ≤10%). Expression differences were confirmed by quantitative RT-PCR, or immunohistochemistry for several genes previously shown to influence cancer progression, such as Psca, Mmp7, and Clusterin. Analyses of human prostate transcripts orthologous to variable murine prostate genes identified differences in gene expression in benign epithelium that correlated with the differentiation state of adjacent tumors. For example, the gene encoding apolipoprotein D, which is known to enhance resistance to cell stress, was expressed at significantly greater levels in benign epithelium associated with high-grade versus low-grade cancers.


These studies support the concept that the cellular, tissue, and organismal context contribute to oncogenesis and suggest that a predisposition to a sequence of events leading to pathology may exist prior to cancer initiation.