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1.  Neuropilin-2 promotes extravasation and metastasis by interacting with endothelial α5 integrin 
Cancer research  2013;73(14):4579-4590.
Metastasis, the leading cause of cancer death, requires tumor cell intravasation, migration through the bloodstream, arrest within capillaries, and extravasation to invade distant tissues. Few mechanistic details have been reported thus far regarding the extravasation process or re-entry of circulating tumor cells at metastatic sites. Here, we demonstrate that neuropilin-2 (NRP-2), a multi-functional non-kinase receptor for semaphorins, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), and other growth factors, expressed on cancer cells interacts with α5 integrin on endothelial cells to mediate vascular extravasation and metastasis in zebrafish and murine xenograft models of clear cell renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and pancreatic adenocarcinoma. In tissue from RCC patients, NRP-2 expression is positively correlated with tumor grade and highest in metastatic tumors. In a prospectively acquired cohort of patients with pancreatic cancer, high NRP-2 expression co-segregated with poor prognosis. Through biochemical approaches as well as Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), we describe a unique mechanism through which NRP-2 expressed on cancer cells interacts with α5 integrin on endothelial cells to mediate vascular adhesion and extravasation. Taken together, our studies reveal a clinically significant role of NRP-2 in cancer cell extravasation and promotion of metastasis.
PMCID: PMC3774599  PMID: 23689123
Neuropilin; metastasis; integrin; renal cell carcinoma; pancreatic cancer; endothelial cells; adhesion; extravasation
2.  Somatic Point Mutation Calling in Low Cellularity Tumors 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(11):e74380.
Somatic mutation calling from next-generation sequencing data remains a challenge due to the difficulties of distinguishing true somatic events from artifacts arising from PCR, sequencing errors or mis-mapping. Tumor cellularity or purity, sub-clonality and copy number changes also confound the identification of true somatic events against a background of germline variants. We have developed a heuristic strategy and software ( for somatic mutation calling in samples with low tumor content and we show the superior sensitivity and precision of our approach using a previously sequenced cell line, a series of tumor/normal admixtures, and 3,253 putative somatic SNVs verified on an orthogonal platform.
PMCID: PMC3826759  PMID: 24250782
3.  Clinical and molecular characterization of HER2 amplified-pancreatic cancer 
Genome Medicine  2013;5(8):78.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal and molecularly diverse malignancies. Repurposing of therapeutics that target specific molecular mechanisms in different disease types offers potential for rapid improvements in outcome. Although HER2 amplification occurs in pancreatic cancer, it is inadequately characterized to exploit the potential of anti-HER2 therapies.
HER2 amplification was detected and further analyzed using multiple genomic sequencing approaches. Standardized reference laboratory assays defined HER2 amplification in a large cohort of patients (n = 469) with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC).
An amplified inversion event (1 MB) was identified at the HER2 locus in a patient with PDAC. Using standardized laboratory assays, we established diagnostic criteria for HER2 amplification in PDAC, and observed a prevalence of 2%. Clinically, HER2- amplified PDAC was characterized by a lack of liver metastases, and a preponderance of lung and brain metastases. Excluding breast and gastric cancer, the incidence of HER2-amplified cancers in the USA is >22,000 per annum.
HER2 amplification occurs in 2% of PDAC, and has distinct features with implications for clinical practice. The molecular heterogeneity of PDAC implies that even an incidence of 2% represents an attractive target for anti-HER2 therapies, as options for PDAC are limited. Recruiting patients based on HER2 amplification, rather than organ of origin, could make trials of anti-HER2 therapies feasible in less common cancer types.
PMCID: PMC3978667  PMID: 24004612
4.  Maternal obesity and diabetes induces latent metabolic defects and widespread epigenetic changes in isogenic mice 
Epigenetics  2013;8(6):602-611.
Intrauterine nutrition can program metabolism, creating stable changes in physiology that may have significant health consequences. The mechanism underlying these changes is widely assumed to involve epigenetic changes to the expression of metabolic genes, but evidence supporting this idea is limited. Here we have performed the first study of the epigenomic consequences of exposure to maternal obesity and diabetes. We used a mouse model of natural-onset obesity that allows comparison of genetically identical mice whose mothers were either obese and diabetic or lean with a normal metabolism. We find that the offspring of obese mothers have a latent metabolic phenotype that is unmasked by exposure to a Western-style diet, resulting in glucose intolerance, insulin resistance and hepatic steatosis. The offspring show changes in hepatic gene expression and widespread but subtle alterations in cytosine methylation. Contrary to expectation, these molecular changes do not point to metabolic pathways but instead reside in broadly developmental ontologies. We propose that, rather than being adaptive, these changes may simply produce an inappropriate response to suboptimal environments; maladaptive phenotypes may be avoidable if postnatal nutrition is carefully controlled.
PMCID: PMC3857340  PMID: 23764993
fetal programming; epigenetic programming; obesity; diabetes; cytosine methylation; Avy
5.  Pancreatic cancer genomes reveal aberrations in axon guidance pathway genes 
Biankin, Andrew V. | Waddell, Nicola | Kassahn, Karin S. | Gingras, Marie-Claude | Muthuswamy, Lakshmi B. | Johns, Amber L. | Miller, David K. | Wilson, Peter J. | Patch, Ann-Marie | Wu, Jianmin | Chang, David K. | Cowley, Mark J. | Gardiner, Brooke B. | Song, Sarah | Harliwong, Ivon | Idrisoglu, Senel | Nourse, Craig | Nourbakhsh, Ehsan | Manning, Suzanne | Wani, Shivangi | Gongora, Milena | Pajic, Marina | Scarlett, Christopher J. | Gill, Anthony J. | Pinho, Andreia V. | Rooman, Ilse | Anderson, Matthew | Holmes, Oliver | Leonard, Conrad | Taylor, Darrin | Wood, Scott | Xu, Qinying | Nones, Katia | Fink, J. Lynn | Christ, Angelika | Bruxner, Tim | Cloonan, Nicole | Kolle, Gabriel | Newell, Felicity | Pinese, Mark | Mead, R. Scott | Humphris, Jeremy L. | Kaplan, Warren | Jones, Marc D. | Colvin, Emily K. | Nagrial, Adnan M. | Humphrey, Emily S. | Chou, Angela | Chin, Venessa T. | Chantrill, Lorraine A. | Mawson, Amanda | Samra, Jaswinder S. | Kench, James G. | Lovell, Jessica A. | Daly, Roger J. | Merrett, Neil D. | Toon, Christopher | Epari, Krishna | Nguyen, Nam Q. | Barbour, Andrew | Zeps, Nikolajs | Kakkar, Nipun | Zhao, Fengmei | Wu, Yuan Qing | Wang, Min | Muzny, Donna M. | Fisher, William E. | Brunicardi, F. Charles | Hodges, Sally E. | Reid, Jeffrey G. | Drummond, Jennifer | Chang, Kyle | Han, Yi | Lewis, Lora R. | Dinh, Huyen | Buhay, Christian J. | Beck, Timothy | Timms, Lee | Sam, Michelle | Begley, Kimberly | Brown, Andrew | Pai, Deepa | Panchal, Ami | Buchner, Nicholas | De Borja, Richard | Denroche, Robert E. | Yung, Christina K. | Serra, Stefano | Onetto, Nicole | Mukhopadhyay, Debabrata | Tsao, Ming-Sound | Shaw, Patricia A. | Petersen, Gloria M. | Gallinger, Steven | Hruban, Ralph H. | Maitra, Anirban | Iacobuzio-Donahue, Christine A. | Schulick, Richard D. | Wolfgang, Christopher L. | Morgan, Richard A. | Lawlor, Rita T. | Capelli, Paola | Corbo, Vincenzo | Scardoni, Maria | Tortora, Giampaolo | Tempero, Margaret A. | Mann, Karen M. | Jenkins, Nancy A. | Perez-Mancera, Pedro A. | Adams, David J. | Largaespada, David A. | Wessels, Lodewyk F. A. | Rust, Alistair G. | Stein, Lincoln D. | Tuveson, David A. | Copeland, Neal G. | Musgrove, Elizabeth A. | Scarpa, Aldo | Eshleman, James R. | Hudson, Thomas J. | Sutherland, Robert L. | Wheeler, David A. | Pearson, John V. | McPherson, John D. | Gibbs, Richard A. | Grimmond, Sean M.
Nature  2012;491(7424):399-405.
Pancreatic cancer is a highly lethal malignancy with few effective therapies. We performed exome sequencing and copy number analysis to define genomic aberrations in a prospectively accrued clinical cohort (n = 142) of early (stage I and II) sporadic pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Detailed analysis of 99 informative tumours identified substantial heterogeneity with 2,016 non-silent mutations and 1,628 copy-number variations. We define 16 significantly mutated genes, reaffirming known mutations (KRAS, TP53, CDKN2A, SMAD4, MLL3, TGFBR2, ARID1A and SF3B1), and uncover novel mutated genes including additional genes involved in chromatin modification (EPC1 and ARID2), DNA damage repair (ATM) and other mechanisms (ZIM2, MAP2K4, NALCN, SLC16A4 and MAGEA6). Integrative analysis with in vitro functional data and animal models provided supportive evidence for potential roles for these genetic aberrations in carcinogenesis. Pathway-based analysis of recurrently mutated genes recapitulated clustering in core signalling pathways in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, and identified new mutated genes in each pathway. We also identified frequent and diverse somatic aberrations in genes described traditionally as embryonic regulators of axon guidance, particularly SLIT/ROBO signalling, which was also evident in murine Sleeping Beauty transposon-mediated somatic mutagenesis models of pancreatic cancer, providing further supportive evidence for the potential involvement of axon guidance genes in pancreatic carcinogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3530898  PMID: 23103869
6.  ELF5 Suppresses Estrogen Sensitivity and Underpins the Acquisition of Antiestrogen Resistance in Luminal Breast Cancer 
PLoS Biology  2012;10(12):e1001461.
The transcription factor ELF5 is responsible for gene expression patterning underlying molecular subtypes of breast cancer and may mediate acquired resistance to anti-estrogen therapy.
We have previously shown that during pregnancy the E-twenty-six (ETS) transcription factor ELF5 directs the differentiation of mammary progenitor cells toward the estrogen receptor (ER)-negative and milk producing cell lineage, raising the possibility that ELF5 may suppress the estrogen sensitivity of breast cancers. To test this we constructed inducible models of ELF5 expression in ER positive luminal breast cancer cells and interrogated them using transcript profiling and chromatin immunoprecipitation of DNA followed by DNA sequencing (ChIP-Seq). ELF5 suppressed ER and FOXA1 expression and broadly suppressed ER-driven patterns of gene expression including sets of genes distinguishing the luminal molecular subtype. Direct transcriptional targets of ELF5, which included FOXA1, EGFR, and MYC, accurately classified a large cohort of breast cancers into their intrinsic molecular subtypes, predicted ER status with high precision, and defined groups with differential prognosis. Knockdown of ELF5 in basal breast cancer cell lines suppressed basal patterns of gene expression and produced a shift in molecular subtype toward the claudin-low and normal-like groups. Luminal breast cancer cells that acquired resistance to the antiestrogen Tamoxifen showed greatly elevated levels of ELF5 and its transcriptional signature, and became dependent on ELF5 for proliferation, compared to the parental cells. Thus ELF5 provides a key transcriptional determinant of breast cancer molecular subtype by suppression of estrogen sensitivity in luminal breast cancer cells and promotion of basal characteristics in basal breast cancer cells, an action that may be utilised to acquire antiestrogen resistance.
Author Summary
The molecular subtypes of breast cancer are distinguished by their intrinsic patterns of gene expression and can be used to group patients with different prognoses and treatment options. Although molecular subtyping tests are currently under evaluation, some of them are already in use to better tailor therapy for patients; however, the molecular events that are responsible for these different patterns of gene expression in breast cancer are largely undefined. The elucidation of their mechanistic basis would improve our understanding of the disease process and enhance the chances of developing better predictive and prognostic markers, new therapies, and interventions to overcome resistance to existing therapies. Here, we show that the transcription factor ELF5 is responsible for much of the patterning of gene expression that distinguishes the breast cancer subtypes. Additionally, our data suggest that ELF5 may also be involved in the development of resistance to therapies designed to stop estrogen stimulation of breast cancer. These effects of ELF5 appear to represent a partial carryover into breast cancer of its normal role in the mammary gland, where it is responsible for the development of milk-producing structures during pregnancy.
PMCID: PMC3531499  PMID: 23300383
7.  qpure: A Tool to Estimate Tumor Cellularity from Genome-Wide Single-Nucleotide Polymorphism Profiles 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45835.
Tumour cellularity, the relative proportion of tumour and normal cells in a sample, affects the sensitivity of mutation detection, copy number analysis, cancer gene expression and methylation profiling. Tumour cellularity is traditionally estimated by pathological review of sectioned specimens; however this method is both subjective and prone to error due to heterogeneity within lesions and cellularity differences between the sample viewed during pathological review and tissue used for research purposes. In this paper we describe a statistical model to estimate tumour cellularity from SNP array profiles of paired tumour and normal samples using shifts in SNP allele frequency at regions of loss of heterozygosity (LOH) in the tumour. We also provide qpure, a software implementation of the method. Our experiments showed that there is a medium correlation 0.42 (-value = 0.0001) between tumor cellularity estimated by qpure and pathology review. Interestingly there is a high correlation 0.87 (-value 2.2e-16) between cellularity estimates by qpure and deep Ion Torrent sequencing of known somatic KRAS mutations; and a weaker correlation 0.32 (-value = 0.004) between IonTorrent sequencing and pathology review. This suggests that qpure may be a more accurate predictor of tumour cellularity than pathology review. qpure can be downloaded from
PMCID: PMC3457972  PMID: 23049875
8.  RON is not a prognostic marker for resectable pancreatic cancer 
BMC Cancer  2012;12:395.
The receptor tyrosine kinase RON exhibits increased expression during pancreatic cancer progression and promotes migration, invasion and gemcitabine resistance of pancreatic cancer cells in experimental models. However, the prognostic significance of RON expression in pancreatic cancer is unknown.
RON expression was characterized in several large cohorts, including a prospective study, totaling 492 pancreatic cancer patients and relationships with patient outcome and clinico-pathologic variables were assessed.
RON expression was associated with outcome in a training set, but this was not recapitulated in the validation set, nor was there any association with therapeutic responsiveness in the validation set or the prospective study.
Although RON is implicated in pancreatic cancer progression in experimental models, and may constitute a therapeutic target, RON expression is not associated with prognosis or therapeutic responsiveness in resected pancreatic cancer.
PMCID: PMC3532183  PMID: 22958871
Receptor tyrosine kinase; Biomarker; Gemcitabine; Chemotherapy
9.  Inheritance of coronary artery disease in men: an analysis of the role of the Y chromosome 
Lancet  2012;379(9819):915-922.
A sexual dimorphism exists in the incidence and prevalence of coronary artery disease—men are more commonly affected than are age-matched women. We explored the role of the Y chromosome in coronary artery disease in the context of this sexual inequity.
We genotyped 11 markers of the male-specific region of the Y chromosome in 3233 biologically unrelated British men from three cohorts: the British Heart Foundation Family Heart Study (BHF-FHS), West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study (WOSCOPS), and Cardiogenics Study. On the basis of this information, each Y chromosome was tracked back into one of 13 ancient lineages defined as haplogroups. We then examined associations between common Y chromosome haplogroups and the risk of coronary artery disease in cross-sectional BHF-FHS and prospective WOSCOPS. Finally, we undertook functional analysis of Y chromosome effects on monocyte and macrophage transcriptome in British men from the Cardiogenics Study.
Of nine haplogroups identified, two (R1b1b2 and I) accounted for roughly 90% of the Y chromosome variants among British men. Carriers of haplogroup I had about a 50% higher age-adjusted risk of coronary artery disease than did men with other Y chromosome lineages in BHF-FHS (odds ratio 1·75, 95% CI 1·20–2·54, p=0·004), WOSCOPS (1·45, 1·08–1·95, p=0·012), and joint analysis of both populations (1·56, 1·24–1·97, p=0·0002). The association between haplogroup I and increased risk of coronary artery disease was independent of traditional cardiovascular and socioeconomic risk factors. Analysis of macrophage transcriptome in the Cardiogenics Study revealed that 19 molecular pathways showing strong differential expression between men with haplogroup I and other lineages of the Y chromosome were interconnected by common genes related to inflammation and immunity, and that some of them have a strong relevance to atherosclerosis.
The human Y chromosome is associated with risk of coronary artery disease in men of European ancestry, possibly through interactions of immunity and inflammation.
British Heart Foundation; UK National Institute for Health Research; LEW Carty Charitable Fund; National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia; European Union 6th Framework Programme; Wellcome Trust.
PMCID: PMC3314981  PMID: 22325189
10.  Evaluation of the NOD/SCID xenograft model for glucocorticoid-regulated gene expression in childhood B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia 
BMC Genomics  2011;12:565.
Glucocorticoids such as prednisolone and dexamethasone are critical drugs used in multi-agent chemotherapy protocols used to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), and response to glucocorticoids is highly predictive of outcome. The NOD/SCID xenograft mouse model of ALL is a clinically relevant model in which the mice develop a systemic leukemia which retains the fundamental biological characteristics of the original disease. Here we report a study evaluating the NOD/SCID xenograft mouse model to investigate glucocorticoid-induced gene expression. Cells from a glucocorticoid-sensitive xenograft derived from a child with B-cell precursor ALL were inoculated into NOD/SCID mice. When highly engrafted the mice were randomized into groups of 4 to receive dexamethasone 15 mg/kg by intraperitoneal injection or vehicle control. Leukemia cells were harvested from mice spleens at 0, 8, 24 or 48 hours thereafter, and gene expression analyzed on Illumina WG-6_V3 chips, comparing all groups to time 0 hours.
The 8 hour dexamethasone-treated timepoint had the highest number of significantly differentially expressed genes, with fewer observed at the 24 and 48 hour timepoints, and with minimal changes seen across the time-matched controls. When compared to publicly available datasets of glucocorticoid-induced gene expression from an in vitro cell line study and from an in vivo study of patients with ALL, at the level of pathways, expression changes in the 8 hour xenograft samples showed a similar response to patients treated with glucocorticoids. Replicate analysis revealed that at the 8 hour timepoint, a dataset with high signal and differential expression, using data from 3 replicates instead of 4 resulted in excellent recovery scores of > 0.9. However at other timepoints with less signal very poor recovery scores were obtained with 3 replicates.
The NOD/SCID xenograft mouse model provides a reproducible experimental system in which to investigate clinically-relevant mechanisms of drug-induced gene regulation in ALL; the 8 hour timepoint provides the highest number of significantly differentially expressed genes; time-matched controls are redundant and excellent recovery scores can be obtained with 3 replicates.
PMCID: PMC3228854  PMID: 22093874
11.  PINA v2.0: mining interactome modules 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;40(Database issue):D862-D865.
The Protein Interaction Network Analysis (PINA) platform is a comprehensive web resource, which includes a database of unified protein–protein interaction data integrated from six manually curated public databases, and a set of built-in tools for network construction, filtering, analysis and visualization. The second version of PINA enhances its utility for studies of protein interactions at a network level, by including multiple collections of interaction modules identified by different clustering approaches from the whole network of protein interactions (‘interactome’) for six model organisms. All identified modules are fully annotated by enriched Gene Ontology terms, KEGG pathways, Pfam domains and the chemical and genetic perturbations collection from MSigDB. Moreover, a new tool is provided for module enrichment analysis in addition to simple query function. The interactome data are also available on the web site for further bioinformatics analysis. PINA is freely accessible at
PMCID: PMC3244997  PMID: 22067443
12.  A Sustained Dietary Change Increases Epigenetic Variation in Isogenic Mice 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(4):e1001380.
Epigenetic changes can be induced by adverse environmental exposures, such as nutritional imbalance, but little is known about the nature or extent of these changes. Here we have explored the epigenomic effects of a sustained nutritional change, excess dietary methyl donors, by assessing genomic CpG methylation patterns in isogenic mice exposed for one or six generations. We find stochastic variation in methylation levels at many loci; exposure to methyl donors increases the magnitude of this variation and the number of variable loci. Several gene ontology categories are significantly overrepresented in genes proximal to these methylation-variable loci, suggesting that certain pathways are susceptible to environmental influence on their epigenetic states. Long-term exposure to the diet (six generations) results in a larger number of loci exhibiting epigenetic variability, suggesting that some of the induced changes are heritable. This finding presents the possibility that epigenetic variation within populations can be induced by environmental change, providing a vehicle for disease predisposition and possibly a substrate for natural selection.
Author Summary
Epigenetic changes to gene expression that do not involve changes to DNA sequence can be influenced by the environment and provide one candidate mechanism by which early nutrition can influence adult disease risk. Here, we examined epigenetic changes across the genome in response to short- and long-term exposure to a dietary supplement in genetically identical mice. We find that the supplement induces small but widespread epigenetic changes in exposed mice. These changes increase the epigenetic variability among exposed mice, and this effect is magnified in mice exposed long-term. The epigenetic changes are overrepresented in gene functions involved in cell and organ development and in gene expression. Our data is consistent with the external environment having pervasive effects on the epigenome and suggests that some genetic pathways may be more susceptible to environmental influence than others.
PMCID: PMC3080854  PMID: 21541011
13.  Intra- and inter-individual genetic differences in gene expression 
Mammalian Genome  2009;20(5):281-295.
Genetic variation is known to influence the amount of mRNA produced by a gene. Because molecular machines control mRNA levels of multiple genes, we expect genetic variation in components of these machines would influence multiple genes in a similar fashion. We show that this assumption is correct by using correlation of mRNA levels measured from multiple tissues in mouse strain panels to detect shared genetic influences. These correlating groups of genes (CGGs) have collective properties that on average account for 52–79% of the variability of their constituent genes and can contain genes that encode functionally related proteins. We show that the genetic influences are essentially tissue-specific and, consequently, the same genetic variations in one animal may upregulate a CGG in one tissue but downregulate the CGG in a second tissue. We further show similarly paradoxical behaviour of CGGs within the same tissues of different individuals. Thus, this class of genetic variation can result in complex inter- and intraindividual differences. This will create substantial challenges in humans, where multiple tissues are not readily available.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s00335-009-9181-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC2690833  PMID: 19424753

Results 1-13 (13)