Object. Endolymphatic sac (ELS) tumors are low-grade malignancies of the temporal bone that are associated with von Hippel—Lindau (VHL) disease but can also occur sporadically. The VHL gene product VHL protein is important in the regulation of hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-1α, which controls expression of molecules that are important in angiogenesis and cell metabolism. In this study the authors examine the role of VHL and HIF-1 in ELS tumors.
Methods. The ELS tumors from three patients were examined using the following method: DNA from tumor tissue was isolated, amplified by polymerase chain reaction and the VHL gene sequence was compared with the known wild-type sequence. Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) studies were performed to confirm the sequencing data. Immunohistochemical evaluation for VHL, HIF-1α, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and carbonic anhydrase IX (CA IX) was performed. Snap-frozen tumor tissue was examined using Western blot and HIF-1 immunoassays for HIF-1α and VHL expression.
Two patients had sporadic ELS tumors and the other one suffered from VHL disease. Results of VHL gene sequencing were normal in the tissue derived from the sporadic ELS tumors. The ELS tumor, pheochromocytoma, and spinal hemangioblastoma were heterozygous for the same C-to-A transversion found in the germline carried by the patient with VHL disease. No LOH was detected in the tumor tissue obtained in the patient with VHL disease. Expression of HIF-1α, VEGF, and CA IX evaluated using immunohistochemical studies was elevated in the VHL-associated tumors. Nevertheless, Western blots and immunoassays for HIF-1α did not show elevated expression in these tumors.
Conclusions. The sporadic and VHL disease—associated ELS tumors in this study had normal VHL-mediated HIF-1 regulation. This is a result of normal VHL gene expression in the case of the sporadic ELS tumor. In the VHL-associated ELS tumor, this is due to one normal copy of the VHL gene and adequate VHL gene expression.