Background: The mammalian FOXO (forkhead box, O subclass) proteins are a family of pleiotropic transcription factors involved in the regulation of a broad range of cellular processes critical for survival. Despite the essential and diverse roles of the FOXO family members in human cells and their involvement in tumor pathogenesis, the regulation of FOXO expression remains poorly understood. We have addressed the mechanisms underlying the high level of expression of the FOXO1A gene in a cell line, PER-453, derived from a primitive neuroectodermal tumor of the central nervous system (CNS-PNET).Methods: The status of the FOXO1A locus in the PER-453 CNS-PNET cell line was investigated by Southern blotting and DNA sequence analysis of the proximal promoter, 5'-UTR, open reading frame and 3'-UTR. FOXO1A expression was assessed by conventional and quantitative RT-PCR, Northern and Western blotting.Results: Quantitative real-time RT-PCR (qRT-PCR) data indicated that after normalization to ACTB mRNA levels, canonical FOXO1A mRNA expression in the PER-453 cell line was 124-fold higher than the average level of five other CNS-PNET cell lines tested, 24-fold higher than the level in whole fetal brain, and 3.5-fold higher than the level in fetal brain germinal matrix cells. No mutations within the FOXO1A open reading frame or gross rearrangements of the FOXO1A locus were detected. However, a single nucleotide change within the proximal promoter and several nucleotide changes within the 3'-UTR were identified. In addition, two novel FOXO1A transcripts were isolated that differ from the canonical transcript by alternative splicing within the 3'-UTR.Conclusion: The CNS-PNET cell line, PER-453, expresses FOXO1A at very high levels relative to most normal and cancer cells from a broad range of tissues. The FOXO1A open reading frame is wild type in the PER-453 cell line and the abnormally high FOXO1A mRNA expression is not due to mutations affecting the 5'-UTR or proximal promoter. Over expression of FOXO1A may be the result of PER-453 specific epimutations or imbalances in regulatory factors acting at the promoter and/or 3'-UTR.