Le X, Pugach EK, Hettmer S, Storer NY, Liu J, Wills AA, DiBiase A, Chen EY, Ignatius MS, Poss KD, Wagers AJ, Langenau DM, Zon LI. 2013. A novel chemical screening strategy in zebrafish identifies common pathways in embryogenesis and rhabdomyosarcoma development. Development (Cambridge, England). 140(11):2354-64. Pubmed: 23615277 DOI:10.1242/dev.088427


The zebrafish is a powerful genetic model that has only recently been used to dissect developmental pathways involved in oncogenesis. We hypothesized that operative pathways during embryogenesis would also be used for oncogenesis. In an effort to define RAS target genes during embryogenesis, gene expression was evaluated in Tg(hsp70-HRAS(G12V)) zebrafish embryos subjected to heat shock. dusp6 was activated by RAS, and this was used as the basis for a chemical genetic screen to identify small molecules that interfere with RAS signaling during embryogenesis. A KRAS(G12D)-induced zebrafish embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma was then used to assess the therapeutic effects of the small molecules. Two of these inhibitors, PD98059 and TPCK, had anti-tumor activity as single agents in both zebrafish embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma and a human cell line of rhabdomyosarcoma that harbored activated mutations in NRAS. PD98059 inhibited MEK1 whereas TPCK suppressed S6K1 activity; however, the combined treatment completely suppressed eIF4B phosphorylation and decreased translation initiation. Our work demonstrates that the activated pathways in RAS induction during embryogenesis are also important in oncogenesis and that inhibition of these pathways suppresses tumor growth.

Related Faculty

Photo of Amy Wagers

Amy Wagers seeks to change the way we repair our tissues after an injury. Her research focuses on defining the factors and mechanisms that regulate the migration, expansion, and regenerative potential of adult blood-forming and muscle-forming stem cells.

Photo of Len Zon

The Zon laboratory aims to dissect how assaults to the hematopoietic system cause severe diseases such as leukemias, lymphomas, and anemias. They investigate hematopoietic development and disease using chemical screens, genetic screens, and analysis of novel transgenic lines in zebrafish.

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