To identify genetic events that characterize cancer progression, we conducted a comprehensive genetic evaluation of 161 primary breast tumors. Similar to the “mountain-and-hill” view of mutations, gene amplification also shows high and low frequency alterations in breast cancers. The frequently amplified genes include the well-known oncogenes, ERBB2, FGFR1, MYC, CCND1, and PIK3CA, whereas other known oncogenes that are amplified, though less frequently, include CCND2, EGFR, FGFR2, and NOTCH3. More importantly, by honing in on minimally amplified regions containing ≤ 3 genes, we identified six new amplified genes: POLD3, IRAK4, IRX2, TBL1XR1, ASPH, and BRD4. We found that both the IRX2 and TBL1XR1 proteins showed higher expression in the malignant cell lines, MCF10CA1h and MCF10CA1a, than in their precursor, MCF10A, a normal immortalized mammary epithelial cell line. To study oncogenic roles of TBL1XR1, we performed knockdown experiments using a shRNA approach and found that depletion of TBL1XR1 in MCF10CA1h cells resulted in reduction of cell migration and invasion as well as suppression of tumorigenesis in mouse xenografts. Intriguingly, our mutation analysis showed the presence of activation mutations in the PIK3CA gene in a subset of tumors that also had DNA copy number increases in the PIK3CA locus, suggesting an additive effect of co-existing activating amino-acid substitution and dosage increase from amplification. Our gene amplification and somatic mutation analysis of breast primary tumors provides a coherent picture of genetic events, both corroborating and novel, offering insight into the genetic underpinnings of breast cancer progression.
Keywords: DNA copy number, gene amplification, oncogene, somatic mutation, breast cancer