Testicular teratomas: an intersection of pluripotency, differentiation and cancer biology
Published: 30 May 2013
Ximena Bustamante-Marín1,2, Jason A. Garness1 and Blanche Capel*,1
1Department of Cell Biology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C., USA and 2Facultad de Ciencias de la Salud, Departamento Biomédico Universidad de Antofagasta, Antofagasta, Chile
Teratomas represent a critical interface between stem cells, differentiation and tumorigenesis. These tumors are composed of cell types representing all three germ layers reflecting the pluripotent nature of their cell of origin. The study of these curious tumors became possible when Leroy Stevens identified the 129 mouse strain as a model of spontaneous testicular teratoma and later isolated a substrain carrying the Ter mutation, a potent modifier of tumor incidence. Early studies with 129 mice lead to the discovery of embryonal carcinoma (EC) cells which played a foundational role in the embryonic stem (ES) cell field and the study of pluripotency. The cells of origin of testicular teratomas are germ cells. During early development, primordial germ cells diverge from somatic differentiation and establish their pluripotent nature, maintaining or re-expressing core pluripotency genes; Oct4, Sox2 and Nanog. It is believed that a misregulation of male germ cell pluripotency plays a critical role in teratoma development. Several mouse models of teratoma development have now been identified, including a chromosome substitution strain, 129-Chr19MOLF, conditional Dmrt1 and Pten alleles and the Ter mutation in the Dnd1 gene. However, it is still unknown what role somatic cells and/or physiology play in the sensitivity to teratoma development. These unusual tumors may hold the key to understanding how pluripotency is regulated in vivo.