Department of Neurology and the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA; Departments of Pediatrics, Neurosurgery and Brain Tumor Research Center, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94158, USA. Electronic address: [Email]
Human neural stem cell cultures provide progenitor cells that are potential cells of origin for brain cancers. However, the extent to which genetic predisposition to tumor formation can be faithfully captured in stem cell lines is uncertain. Here, we evaluated neuroepithelial stem (NES) cells, representative of cerebellar progenitors. We transduced NES cells with MYCN, observing medulloblastoma upon orthotopic implantation in mice. Significantly, transcriptomes and patterns of DNA methylation from xenograft tumors were globally more representative of human medulloblastoma compared to a MYCN-driven genetically engineered mouse model. Orthotopic transplantation of NES cells generated from Gorlin syndrome patients, who are predisposed to medulloblastoma due to germline-mutated PTCH1, also generated medulloblastoma. We engineered candidate cooperating mutations in Gorlin NES cells, with mutation of DDX3X or loss of GSE1 both accelerating tumorigenesis. These findings demonstrate that human NES cells provide a potent experimental resource for dissecting genetic causation in medulloblastoma.