Testicular germ cell tumour (TGCT) is a malignancy with a high heritable component. The inherited risk is polygenic, and around 50 susceptibility genes are identified. The functional role of the gene products for TGCT development is not well understood. The focus of this review is functional studies of genetic risk factors for TGCT derived from GCNIS and the signalling pathways involved in the pathogenesis.

Genome-wide association studies have identified new risk loci for TGCT and confirmed previously identified susceptibility genes. Many of these risk genes are related to male germ cell development, sex determination and genomic integrity. Gain- and loss-of-function studies in animal models and TGCT cell lines, as well as gene and protein expression studies in TGCT patient samples, have contributed to the understanding of TGCT development. KITLG-KIT signalling is of crucial importance, but several other signal transduction pathways may also play a role. Many of the risk loci are in non-coding regions, and studies have revealed that non-coding RNAs may act as oncogenes or tumour suppressors in TGCT development.

The risk of TGCT is polygenic, and the underlying molecular mechanisms are complex. Several signalling pathways are related to TGCT development, and both proteins and non-coding RNAs may act as oncogenes or tumour suppressors. Epigenetic studies are of importance to get further knowledge about how the signalling pathways are regulated.

Andrology. 2019 Jul [Epub]

M K Das, L Kleppa, T B Haugen

Faculty of Health Sciences, OsloMet – Oslo Metropolitan University, Oslo, Norway.