In an effort to identify novel biallelically inactivated tumor suppressor genes (TSG) in sporadic invasive and pre-invasive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) genomes, we applied a comprehensive integrated multi-‘omics approach to investigate patient matched, paired NSCLC tumor and non-malignant parenchymal tissues. By surveying lung tumor genomes for genes concomitantly inactivated within individual tumors by multiple mechanisms, and by the frequency of disruption in tumors across multiple cohorts, we have identified a putative lung cancer TSG, Eyes Absent 4 (EYA4). EYA4 is frequently and concomitantly deleted, hypermethylated and underexpressed in multiple independent lung tumor data sets, in both major NSCLC subtypes, and in the earliest stages of lung cancer. We find not only that decreased EYA4 expression is associated with poor survival in sporadic lung cancers, but EYA4 SNPs are associated with increased familial cancer risk, consistent with EYA4’s proximity to the previously reported lung cancer susceptibility locus on 6q. Functionally, we find that EYA4 displays TSG-like properties with a role in modulating apoptosis and DNA repair. Cross examination of EYA4 expression across multiple tumor types suggests a cell type-specific tumorigenic role for EYA4, consistent with a tumor suppressor function in cancers of epithelial origin. This work shows a clear role for EYA4 as a putative TSG in NSCLC.
EYA4; two-hit; hypermethylation; tumor suppressor; TSG; non-small cell lung cancer
Human PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) are known to be expressed in germline cells, functionally silencing LINEs and SINEs. Their expression patterns in somatic tissues are largely uncharted. We analyzed 6,260 human piRNA transcriptomes derived from non-malignant and tumour tissues from 11 organs. We discovered that only 273 of the 20,831 known piRNAs are expressed in somatic non-malignant tissues. However, expression patterns of these piRNAs were able to distinguish tissue-of-origin. A total of 522 piRNAs are expressed in corresponding tumour tissues, largely distinguishing tumour from non-malignant tissues in a cancer-type specific manner. Most expressed piRNAs mapped to known transcripts, contrary to “piRNA clusters” reported in germline cells. We showed that piRNA expression can delineate clinical features, such as histological subgroups, disease stages, and survival. PiRNAs common to many cancer types might represent a core gene-set that facilitates cancer growth, while piRNAs unique to individual cancer types likely contribute to cancer-specific biology.
DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification that is highly disrupted in response to cigarette smoke and involved in a wide spectrum of malignant and nonmalignant diseases, but surprisingly not previously assessed in small airways of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Small airways are the primary sites of airflow obstruction in COPD. We sought to determine whether DNA methylation patterns are disrupted in small airway epithelia of patients with COPD, and evaluate whether changes in gene expression are associated with these disruptions. Genome-wide methylation and gene expression analysis were performed on small airway epithelial DNA and RNA obtained from the same patient during bronchoscopy, using Illumina’s Infinium HM27 and Affymetrix’s Genechip Human Gene 1.0 ST arrays. To control for known effects of cigarette smoking on DNA methylation, methylation and gene expression profiles were compared between former smokers with and without COPD matched for age, pack-years, and years of smoking cessation. Our results indicate that aberrant DNA methylation is (1) a genome-wide phenomenon in small airways of patients with COPD, and (2) associated with altered expression of genes and pathways important to COPD, such as the NF-E2–related factor 2 oxidative response pathway. DNA methylation is likely an important mechanism contributing to modulation of genes important to COPD pathology. Because these methylation events may underlie disease-specific gene expression changes, their characterization is a critical first step toward the development of epigenetic markers and an opportunity for developing novel epigenetic therapeutic interventions for COPD.
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; small airways; epigenetic regulation; DNA methylation; integrative omics
Genetic analyses of lung cancer have helped found new treatments in this disease. We conducted an integrative analysis of gene expression and copy number in 261 non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC) relative to matched normal tissues to define novel candidate oncogenes, identifying 12q13-15 and more specifically the YEATS4 gene as amplified and overexpressed in ~20% of the NSCLC cases examined. Overexpression of YEATS4 abrogated senescence in human bronchial epithelial cells (HBECs). Conversely, RNAi-mediated attenuation of YEATS4 in human lung cancer cells reduced their proliferation and tumor growth, impairing colony formation and inducing cellular senescence. These effects were associated with increased levels of p21WAF1 and p53 and cleavage of PARP, implicating YEATS4 as a negative regulator of the p21-p53 pathway. We also found that YEATS4 expression affected cellular responses to cisplastin, with increased levels associated with resistance and decreased levels with sensitivity. Taken together, our findings reveal YEATS4 as a candidate oncogene amplified in NSCLC, and a novel mechanism contributing to NSCLC pathogenesis.
YEATS4; NSCLC; oncogene; p53; integrative analysis
Cigarette smoke is associated with the majority of lung cancers: however, 25% of lung cancer patients are non-smokers, and half of all newly diagnosed lung cancer patients are former smokers. Lung tumors exhibit distinct epidemiological, clinical, pathological, and molecular features depending on smoking status, suggesting divergent mechanisms underlie tumorigenesis in smokers and non-smokers. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are integral contributors to tumorigenesis and mediate biological responses to smoking. Based on the hypothesis that smoking-specific miRNA differences in lung adenocarcinomas reflect distinct tumorigenic processes selected by different smoking and non-smoking environments, we investigated the contribution of miRNA disruption to lung tumor biology and patient outcome in the context of smoking status.
We applied a whole transcriptome sequencing based approach to interrogate miRNA levels in 94 patient-matched lung adenocarcinoma and non-malignant lung parenchymal tissue pairs from current, former and never smokers.
We discovered novel and distinct smoking status-specific patterns of miRNA and miRNA-mediated gene networks, and identified miRNAs that were prognostically significant in a smoking dependent manner.
We conclude that miRNAs disrupted in a smoking status-dependent manner affect distinct cellular pathways and differentially influence lung cancer patient prognosis in current, former and never smokers. Our findings may represent promising biologically relevant markers for lung cancer prognosis or therapeutic intervention.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2407-14-778) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Lung adenocarcinoma; miRNA; Current smoker; Former smoker; Never smoker; Reversible; Survival; Smoking specific
Pheochromocytomas (PCC) are rare tumors that arise in chromaffin tissue of the adrenal gland. PCC are frequently inherited through predisposing mutations in genes such as the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor. VHL is part of the VHL elongin BC protein complex that also includes CUL2/5, TCEB1, TCEB2, and RBX1; in normoxic conditions this complex targets hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF1A) for degradation, thus preventing a hypoxic response. VHL inactivation by genetic mechanisms, such as mutation and loss of heterozygosity, inhibits HIF1A degradation, even in the presence of oxygen, and induces a pseudohypoxic response. However, the described <10% VHL mutation rate cannot account for the high frequency of hypoxic response observed. Indeed, little is known about genetic mechanisms disrupting other complex component genes. Here, we show that, in a panel of 171 PCC tumors, 59.6% harbored gene copy number loss (CNL) of at least one complex component. CNL significantly reduced gene expression and was associated with enrichment of gene targets controlled by HIF1. Interestingly, we show that VHL-related renal clear cell carcinoma harbored disruption of VHL alone. Our results indicate that VHL elongin BC protein complex components other than VHL could be important for PCC tumorigenesis and merit further investigation.
The NFE2-related factor 2 (NRF2) pathway is critical to initiate responses to oxidative stress; however, constitutive activation occurs in different cancer types, including serous ovarian carcinomas (OVCA). The KEAP1/CUL3/RBX1 E3-ubiquitin ligase complex is a regulator of NRF2 levels. Hence, we investigated the DNA-level mechanisms affecting these genes in OVCA. DNA copy-number loss (CNL), promoter hypermethylation, mRNA expression, and sequence mutation for KEAP1, CUL3, and RBX1 were assessed in a cohort of 568 OVCA from The Cancer Genome Atlas. Almost 90% of cases exhibited loss-of-function alterations in any components of the NRF2 inhibitory complex. CNL is the most prominent mechanism of component disruption, with RBX1 being the most frequently disrupted component. These alterations were associated with reduced mRNA expression of complex components, and NRF2 target gene expression was positively enriched in 90% of samples harboring altered complex components. Disruption occurs through a unique DNA-level alteration pattern in OVCA. We conclude that a remarkably high frequency of DNA and mRNA alterations affects components of the KEAP1/CUL3/RBX1 complex, through a unique pattern of genetic mechanisms. Together, these results suggest a key role for the KEAP1/CUL3/RBX1 complex and NRF2 pathway deregulation in OVCA.
Infection with high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV) type 16 is an independent risk factor for the development of oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas (OSCC). However, it is unclear whether viral integration is an essential hallmark in the carcinogenic process of OSCC and whether HPV integration correlates with the level of viral gene transcription and influences the expression of disrupted host genes. We analyzed 75 patients with OSCC. HPV16-positivity was proven by p16INK4A immunohistochemistry, PCR and FISH. Viral integration was examined using DIPS- as well as APOT-PCR. Viral E2, E6 and E7 gene expression levels were quantified by quantitative reverse transcriptase (RT-q)PCR. Expression levels of 7 human genes disrupted by the virus were extracted from mRNA expression profiling data of 32 OSCCs. Viral copy numbers were assessed by qPCR in 73 tumors. We identified 37 HPV16-human fusion products indicating viral integration in 29 (39%) OSCC. In the remaining tumors (61%) only episome-derived PCR products were detected. When comparing OSCC with or without an integration-derived fusion product, we did not find significant differences in the mean RNA expression of viral genes E2, E6 and E7 or the viral copy numbers per cell, nor did the RNA expression of the HPV-disrupted genes differ from either group of OSCC. In conclusion, our data do not support the hypothesis that integration affects the levels of viral and/or HPV-disrupted human gene transcripts. Thus constitutive, rather than a high level, of expression of oncogene transcripts appears to be required in HPV-related OSCC.
Reactive oxygen species contribute to normal thyroid function. The NRF2 oxidative response pathway is frequently and constitutively activated in multiple tumor types, including papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). Genetic mechanisms underlying NRF2 pathway activation in PTC are not fully understood. Thus, we aimed to determine whether inactivating patterns of DNA-level alterations affect genes encoding for individual NRF2 inhibitor complex components (CUL3/KEAP1/RBX1) occur in PTC.
Combined patterns of epi/genetic alterations for KEAP1/CUL3/RBX1 E3 ubiquitin-ligase complex components were simultaneously interrogated for a panel of 310 PTC cases and 40 adjacent non-malignant tissues. Data were obtained from The Cancer Genome Atlas project. Enrichment of NRF2 pathway activation was assessed by gene-set enrichment analysis using transcriptome data. Our analyses revealed that PTC sustain a strikingly high frequency (80.6%) of disruption to multiple component genes of the NRF2 inhibitor complex. Hypermethylation is the predominant inactivating mechanism primarily affecting KEAP1 (70.6%) and CUL3 (20%), while copy number loss mostly affects RBX1 (16.8%). Concordantly, NRF2-associated gene expression signatures are positively and significantly enriched in PTC.
The KEAP1/CUL3/RBX1 E3-ubiquitin ligase complex is almost ubiquitously affected by multiple DNA-level mechanisms and downstream NRF2 pathway targets are activated in PTC. Given the importance of this pathway to normal thyroid function as well as to cancer; targeted inhibition of NRF2 regulators may impact strategies for therapeutic intervention involving this pathway.
KEAP1/CUL3/RBX1 E3-ubiquitin ligase complex; Gene disruption; NRF2; Thyroid cancer
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is a highly aggressive lung neoplasm with extremely poor clinical outcomes and no approved targeted treatments. To elucidate the mechanisms responsible for driving the SCLC phenotype in hopes of revealing novel therapeutic targets, we studied copy number and methylation profiles of SCLC. We found disruption of the E2F/Rb pathway was a prominent feature deregulated in 96% of the SCLC samples investigated and was strongly associated with increased expression of EZH2, an oncogene and core member of the polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2). Through its catalytic role in the PRC2 complex, EZH2 normally functions to epigenetically silence genes during development, however, it aberrantly silences genes in human cancers. We provide evidence to support that EZH2 is functionally active in SCLC tumours, exerts pro-tumourigenic functions in vitro, and is associated with aberrant methylation profiles of PRC2 target genes indicative of a “stem-cell like” hypermethylator profile in SCLC tumours. Furthermore, lentiviral-mediated knockdown of EZH2 demonstrated a significant reduction in the growth of SCLC cell lines, suggesting EZH2 has a key role in driving SCLC biology. In conclusion, our data confirm the role of EZH2 as a critical oncogene in SCLC, and lend support to the prioritization of EZH2 as a potential therapeutic target in clinical disease.
Genomic instability is a hallmark of cancer that leads to an increase in genetic alterations, thus enabling the acquisition of additional capabilities required for tumorigenesis and progression. Substantial heterogeneity in the amount and type of instability (nucleotide, microsatellite, or chromosomal) exists both within and between cancer types, with epithelial tumors typically displaying a greater degree of instability than hematological cancers. While high-throughput sequencing studies offer a comprehensive record of the genetic alterations within a tumor, detecting the rate of instability or cell-to-cell viability using this and most other available methods remains a challenge. Here, we discuss the different levels of genomic instability occurring in human cancers and touch on the current methods and limitations of detecting instability. We have applied one such approach to the surveying of public tumor data to provide a cursory view of genome instability across numerous tumor types.
Genomic instability; Cancer; CIN; MSI; Nucleotide instability
Recent evidence suggests that the observed clinical distinctions between lung tumors in smokers and never smokers (NS) extend beyond specific gene mutations, such as EGFR, EML4-ALK, and KRAS, some of which have been translated into targeted therapies. However, the molecular alterations identified thus far cannot explain all of the clinical and biological disparities observed in lung tumors of NS and smokers. To this end, we performed an unbiased genome-wide, comparative study to identify novel genomic aberrations that differ between smokers and NS.
High resolution whole genome DNA copy number profiling of 69 lung adenocarcinomas from smokers (n = 39) and NS (n = 30) revealed both global and regional disparities in the tumor genomes of these two groups. We found that NS lung tumors had a greater proportion of their genomes altered than those of smokers. Moreover, copy number gains on chromosomes 5q, 7p, and 16p occurred more frequently in NS. We validated our findings in two independently generated public datasets. Our findings provide a novel line of evidence distinguishing genetic differences between smoker and NS lung tumors, namely, that the extent of segmental genomic alterations is greater in NS tumors. Collectively, our findings provide evidence that these lung tumors are globally and genetically different, which implies they are likely driven by distinct molecular mechanisms.
Arsenic is a potent human carcinogen. Around one hundred million people worldwide have potentially been exposed to this metalloid at concentrations considered unsafe. Exposure occurs generally through drinking water from natural geological sources, making it difficult to control this contamination. Arsenic biotransformation is suspected to have a role in arsenic-related health effects ranging from acute toxicities to development of malignancies associated with chronic exposure. It has been demonstrated that arsenic exhibits preference for induction of squamous cell carcinomas in the human, especially skin and lung cancer. Interestingly, keratins emerge as a relevant factor in this arsenic-related squamous cell-type preference. Additionally, both genomic and epigenomic alterations have been associated with arsenic-driven neoplastic process. Some of these aberrations, as well as changes in other factors such as keratins, could explain the association between arsenic and squamous cell carcinomas in humans.
Arsenic is a metalloid, that is, considered to be a human carcinogen. Millions of individuals worldwide are chronically exposed through drinking water, with consequences ranging from acute toxicities to development of malignancies, such as skin and lung cancer. Despite well-known arsenic-related health effects, the molecular mechanisms involved are not fully understood; however, the arsenic biotransformation process, which includes methylation changes, is thought to play a key role. This paper explores the relationship of arsenic exposure with cancer development and summarizes current knowledge of the potential mechanisms that may contribute to the neoplastic processes observed in arsenic exposed human populations.
Once thought to be a part of the ‘dark matter’ of the genome, long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) are emerging as an integral functional component of the mammalian transcriptome. LncRNAs are a novel class of mRNA-like transcripts which, despite no known protein-coding potential, demonstrate a wide range of structural and functional roles in cellular biology. However, the magnitude of the contribution of lncRNA expression to normal human tissues and cancers has not been investigated in a comprehensive manner. In this study, we compiled 272 human serial analysis of gene expression (SAGE) libraries to delineate lncRNA transcription patterns across a broad spectrum of normal human tissues and cancers. Using a novel lncRNA discovery pipeline we parsed over 24 million SAGE tags and report lncRNA expression profiles across a panel of 26 different normal human tissues and 19 human cancers. Our findings show extensive, tissue-specific lncRNA expression in normal tissues and highly aberrant lncRNA expression in human cancers. Here, we present a first generation atlas for lncRNA profiling in cancer.
Chronic exposure to arsenic in drinking water poses a major global health concern. Populations exposed to high concentrations of arsenic-contaminated drinking water suffer serious health consequences, including alarming cancer incidence and death rates. Arsenic is biotransformed through sequential addition of methyl groups, acquired from s-adenosylmethionine (SAM). Metabolism of arsenic generates a variety of genotoxic and cytotoxic species, damaging DNA directly and indirectly, through the generation of reactive oxidative species and induction of DNA adducts, strand breaks and cross links, and inhibition of the DNA repair process itself. Since SAM is the methyl group donor used by DNA methyltransferases to maintain normal epigenetic patterns in all human cells, arsenic is also postulated to affect maintenance of normal DNA methylation patterns, chromatin structure, and genomic stability. The biological processes underlying the cancer promoting factors of arsenic metabolism, related to DNA damage and repair, will be discussed here.
The identification of DNA methylation patterns is a common procedure in the study of epigenetics, as methylation is known to have significant effects on gene expression, and is involved with normal development as well as disease 1-4. Thus, the ability to discriminate between methylated DNA and non-methylated DNA is essential for generating methylation profiles for such studies. Methylated DNA immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) is an efficient technique for the extraction of methylated DNA from a sample of interest 5-7. A sample of as little as 200 ng of DNA is sufficient for the antibody, or immunoprecipitation (IP), reaction. DNA is sonicated into fragments ranging in size from 300-1000 bp, and is divided into immunoprecipitated (IP) and input (IN) portions. IP DNA is subsequently heat denatured and then incubated with anti-5'mC, allowing the monoclonal antibody to bind methylated DNA. After this, magnetic beads containing a secondary antibody with affinity for the primary antibody are added, and incubated. These bead-linked antibodies will bind the monoclonal antibody used in the first step. DNA bound to the antibody complex (methylated DNA) is separated from the rest of the DNA by using a magnet to pull the complexes out of solution. Several washes using IP buffer are then performed to remove the unbound, non-methylated DNA. The methylated DNA/antibody complexes are then digested with Proteinase K to digest the antibodies leaving only the methylated DNA intact. The enriched DNA is purified by phenol:chloroform extraction to remove the protein matter and then precipitated and resuspended in water for later use. PCR techniques can be used to validate the efficiency of the MeDIP procedure by analyzing the amplification products of IP and IN DNA for regions known to lack and known to contain methylated sequences. The purified methylated DNA can then be used for locus-specific (PCR) or genome-wide (microarray and sequencing) methylation studies, and is particularly useful when applied in conjunction with other research tools such as gene expression profiling and array comparative genome hybridization (CGH) 8. Further investigation into DNA methylation will lead to the discovery of new epigenetic targets, which in turn, may be useful in developing new therapeutic or prognostic research tools for diseases such as cancer that are characterized by aberrantly methylated DNA 2, 4, 9-11.
Genomics has substantially changed our approach to cancer research. Gene expression profiling, for example, has been utilized to delineate subtypes of cancer, and facilitated derivation of predictive and prognostic signatures. The emergence of technologies for the high resolution and genome-wide description of genetic and epigenetic features has enabled the identification of a multitude of causal DNA events in tumors. This has afforded the potential for large scale integration of genome and transcriptome data generated from a variety of technology platforms to acquire a better understanding of cancer.
Here we show how multi-dimensional genomics data analysis would enable the deciphering of mechanisms that disrupt regulatory/signaling cascades and downstream effects. Since not all gene expression changes observed in a tumor are causal to cancer development, we demonstrate an approach based on multiple concerted disruption (MCD) analysis of genes that facilitates the rational deduction of aberrant genes and pathways, which otherwise would be overlooked in single genomic dimension investigations.
Notably, this is the first comprehensive study of breast cancer cells by parallel integrative genome wide analyses of DNA copy number, LOH, and DNA methylation status to interpret changes in gene expression pattern. Our findings demonstrate the power of a multi-dimensional approach to elucidate events which would escape conventional single dimensional analysis and as such, reduce the cohort sample size for cancer gene discovery.
High throughput microarray technologies have afforded the investigation of genomes, epigenomes, and transcriptomes at unprecedented resolution. However, software packages to handle, analyze, and visualize data from these multiple 'omics disciplines have not been adequately developed.
Here, we present SIGMA2, a system for the integrative genomic multi-dimensional analysis of cancer genomes, epigenomes, and transcriptomes. Multi-dimensional datasets can be simultaneously visualized and analyzed with respect to each dimension, allowing combinatorial integration of the different assays belonging to the different 'omics.
The identification of genes altered at multiple levels such as copy number, loss of heterozygosity (LOH), DNA methylation and the detection of consequential changes in gene expression can be concertedly performed, establishing SIGMA2 as a novel tool to facilitate the high throughput systems biology analysis of cancer.