Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA) is a congenital red blood cell aplasia inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern caused by mutations in ribosomal protein (RP) genes and in an X-linked recessive pattern by GATA1 mutations. Heterozygous mutations and large deletions in 11 RP genes, RPS19, RPS24, RPS17, RPL5, RPL11, RPL35A, RPS7, RPS10, RPS26, RPL26, and RPL15, are present in ∼65% of DBA patients. DBA is associated with congenital abnormalities in ∼50% of patients and with increased risk of malignancy. To investigate the molecular pathogenesis of RPL5 and RPS24 gene mutations, we generated two murine lines of heterozygous mice, Rpl5 and Rps24, by knocking-out exons 1-8 in the Rpl5 gene and exons 2-3 in the Rps24 gene in C57BL/6 mice. Knock-out of both alleles of Rpl5 and Rps24 genes are embryonic lethal. In contrast, heterozygous mice exhibited normal hematological phenotype, as well as normal Rpl5 and Rps24 RNA and protein levels in their tissues, suggesting that the presence of one allele was sufficient to support the normal function of ribosomal proteins L5 and S24 in mice. To evaluate the risk of cancer development in Rpl5 +/- and Rps24 +/- mice, we monitored these mice and wild type mice until late age. Out of 21 Rpl5 +/- mice (between the ages of 14 and 26 months), two mice developed tumors at 22 months of age and two mice were euthanized due to severe dermatitis at the same age. Similarly, we have been monitoring 23 Rps24 +/- mice between 15 and 26 months of age. One of these mice developed a tumor at 17 months of age, five mice were euthanized due to severe dermatitis between the ages of 17 and 19 months, and two mice were euthanized due to injuries at ages 15 and 29 months. We also monitored 20 control wild-type mice ranging from 13 to 26 months of age. To this date, no tumors have been detected in wild-type mice, although nine of these mice developed severe dermatitis and were euthanized. Histological and immunohistochemical studies were performed to determine the nature of tumors in Rpl5 +/- and Rps24 +/- mice. Comparison of tumor tissues with normal skin from wild-type or Rpl5 +/- and Rps24 +/- with no detected tumors showed that all tissues had normal epidermis and underlying dermis, but connective tissues from tumor sections consisted of a densely cellular neoplasms composed of predominantly atypical spindle shaped cells arranged in intersecting fascicles. The tumor cells had strong cytoplasmic reactivity for vimentin and negative staining for S100, CD45, and pan-keratin, consistent with a high-grade spindle cell sarcoma. Recent studies conducted by the DBA Registry of North America revealed that out of 608 DBA patients, 18 with median age of 41 years developed various types of cancer including sarcomas, colon cancer, and acute myeloid leukemia. The relative risk of cancer in DBA was increased 5.4 fold compared to general population (Vlachos, et al., 2012). Our studies also suggest the correlation between ribosomal protein gene mutations and cancer. However, further studies are required to better understand the underlying molecular mechanism.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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