prostate cancer; long noncoding RNA; SWI-SNF
Protein kinases represent the most effective class of therapeutic targets in cancer; therefore determination of kinase aberrations is a major focus of cancer genomic studies. Here, we analyzed transcriptome sequencing data from a compendium of 482 cancer and benign samples from 25 different tissue types, and defined distinct ‘outlier kinases’ in individual breast and pancreatic cancer samples, based on highest levels of absolute and differential expression. Frequent outlier kinases in breast cancer included therapeutic targets like ERBB2 and FGFR4, distinct from MET, AKT2, and PLK2 in pancreatic cancer. Outlier kinases imparted sample-specific dependencies in various cell lines as tested by siRNA knockdown and/or pharmacologic inhibition. Outlier expression of polo-like kinases was observed in a subset of KRAS-dependent pancreatic cancer cell lines, and conferred increased sensitivity to the pan-PLK inhibitor BI 6727. Our results suggest that outlier kinases represent effective precision therapeutic targets that are readily identifiable through RNA-sequencing of tumors.
Pancreatic Cancer; RNA-Seq; Kinases; Outlier Expression; Personalized Medicine
Through a prospective clinical sequencing program for advanced cancers, four index cases were identified which harbor gene rearrangements of FGFR2 including patients with cholangiocarcinoma, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. After extending our assessment of FGFR rearrangements across multiple tumor cohorts, we identified additional FGFR gene fusions with intact kinase domains in lung squamous cell cancer, bladder cancer, thyroid cancer, oral cancer, glioblastoma, and head and neck squamous cell cancer. All FGFR fusion partners tested exhibit oligomerization capability, suggesting a shared mode of kinase activation. Overexpression of FGFR fusion proteins induced cell proliferation. Two bladder cancer cell lines that harbor FGFR3 fusion proteins exhibited enhanced susceptibility to pharmacologic inhibition in vitro and in vivo. Due to the combinatorial possibilities of FGFR family fusion to a variety of oligomerization partners, clinical sequencing efforts which incorporate transcriptome analysis for gene fusions are poised to identify rare, targetable FGFR fusions across diverse cancer types.
MI-ONCOSEQ; integrative clinical sequencing; FGFR fusions; driver mutations; therapeutic targets
A 44-year old woman with recurrent solitary fibrous tumor (SFT)/hemangiopericytoma was enrolled in a clinical sequencing program including whole exome and transcriptome sequencing. A gene fusion of the transcriptional repressor NAB2 with the transcriptional activator STAT6 was detected. Transcriptome sequencing of 27 additional SFTs all revealed the presence of a NAB2-STAT6 gene fusion. Using RT-PCR and sequencing, we detected this fusion in 51 of 51 SFTs, indicating high levels of recurrence. Expression of NAB2-STAT6 fusion proteins was confirmed in SFT, and the predicted fusion products harbor the early growth response (EGR)-binding domain of NAB2 fused to the activation domain of STAT6. Overexpression of the NAB2-STAT6 gene fusion induced proliferation in cultured cells and activated EGR-responsive genes. These studies establish NAB2-STAT6 as the defining driver mutation of SFT and provide an example of how neoplasia can be initiated by converting a transcriptional repressor of mitogenic pathways into a transcriptional activator.
E26 transformation-specific (ETS) transcription factors are known to be involved in gene aberrations in various malignancies including prostate cancer; however, their role in melanoma oncogenesis has yet to be fully explored. We have completed a comprehensive fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH)-based screen for all 27 members of the ETS transcription factor family on two melanoma tissue microarrays, representing 223 melanomas, 10 nevi, and 5 normal skin tissues. None of the melanoma cases demonstrated ETS fusions; however, 6 of 114 (5.3%) melanomas were amplified for ETV1 using a break-apart FISH probe. For the six positive cases, locus-controlled FISH probes revealed that two of six cases were amplified for the ETV1 region, whereas four cases showed copy gains of the entire chromosome 7. The remaining 26 ETS family members showed no chromosomal aberrations by FISH. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction showed an average 3.4-fold (P value = .00218) increased expression of ETV1 in melanomas, including the FISH ETV1-amplified cases, when compared to other malignancies (prostate, breast, and bladder carcinomas). These data suggest that a subset of melanomas overexpresses ETV1 and amplification of ETV1 may be one mechanism for achieving high gene expression.
Histone methyltransferases (HMTases), as chromatin modifiers, regulate the transcriptomic landscape in normal development as well in diseases such as cancer. Here, we molecularly order two HMTases, EZH2 and MMSET that have established genetic links to oncogenesis. EZH2, which mediates histone H3K27 trimethylation and is associated with gene silencing, was shown to be coordinately expressed and function upstream of MMSET, which mediates H3K36 dimethylation and is associated with active transcription. We found that the EZH2-MMSET HMTase axis is coordinated by a microRNA network and that the oncogenic functions of EZH2 require MMSET activity. Together, these results suggest that the EZH2-MMSET HMTase axis coordinately functions as a master regulator of transcriptional repression, activation, and oncogenesis and may represent an attractive therapeutic target in cancer.
Pseudogene transcripts can provide a novel tier of gene regulation through generation of endogenous siRNAs or miRNA-binding sites. Characterization of pseudogene expression, however, has remained confined to anecdotal observations due to analytical challenges posed by the extremely close sequence similarity with their counterpart coding genes. Here, we describe a systematic analysis of pseudogene “transcription” from an RNA-Seq resource of 293 samples, representing 13 cancer and normal tissue types, and observe a surprisingly prevalent, genome-wide expression of pseudogenes that could be categorized as ubiquitously expressed or lineage and/or cancer specific. Further, we explore disease subtype specificity and functions of selected expressed pseudogenes. Taken together, we provide evidence that transcribed pseudogenes are a significant contributor to the transcriptional landscape of cells and are positioned to play significant roles in cellular differentiation and cancer progression, especially in light of the recently described ceRNA networks. Our work provides a transcriptome resource that enables high-throughput analyses of pseudogene expression.
Characterization of the prostate cancer transcriptome and genome has identified chromosomal rearrangements and copy number gains/losses, including ETS gene fusions, PTEN loss and androgen receptor (AR) amplification, that drive prostate cancer development and progression to lethal, metastatic castrate resistant prostate cancer (CRPC)1. As less is known about the role of mutations2–4, here we sequenced the exomes of 50 lethal, heavily-pretreated metastatic CRPCs obtained at rapid autopsy (including three different foci from the same patient) and 11 treatment naïve, high-grade localized prostate cancers. We identified low overall mutation rates even in heavily treated CRPC (2.00/Mb) and confirmed the monoclonal origin of lethal CRPC. Integrating exome copy number analysis identified disruptions of CHD1, which define a subtype of ETS fusionnegative prostate cancer. Similarly, we demonstrate that ETS2, which is deleted in ~1/3 of CRPCs (commonly through TMPRSS2:ERG fusions), is also deregulated through mutation. Further, we identified recurrent mutations in multiple chromatin/histone modifying genes, including MLL2 (mutated in 8.6% of prostate cancers), and demonstrate interaction of the MLL complex with AR, which is required for AR-mediated signaling. We also identified novel recurrent mutations in the AR collaborating factor FOXA1, which is mutated in 5 of 147 (3.4%) prostate cancers (both untreated localized prostate cancer and CRPC), and showed that mutated FOXA1 represses androgen signaling and increases tumour growth. Proteins that physically interact with AR, such as the ERG gene fusion product, FOXA1, MLL2, UTX, and ASXL1 were found to be mutated in CRPC. In summary, we describe the mutational landscape of a heavily treated metastatic cancer, identify novel mechanisms of AR signaling deregulated in prostate cancer, and prioritize candidates for future study.
Individual cancers harbor a set of genetic aberrations that can be informative for identifying rational therapies currently available or in clinical trials. We implemented a pilot study to explore the practical challenges of applying high-throughput sequencing in clinical oncology. We enrolled patients with advanced or refractory cancer who were eligible for clinical trials. For each patient, we performed whole-genome sequencing of the tumor, targeted whole-exome sequencing of tumor and normal DNA, and transcriptome sequencing (RNA-Seq) of the tumor to identify potentially informative mutations in a clinically relevant time frame of 3 to 4 weeks. With this approach, we detected several classes of cancer mutations including structural rearrangements, copy number alterations, point mutations, and gene expression alterations. A multidisciplinary Sequencing Tumor Board (STB) deliberated on the clinical interpretation of the sequencing results obtained. We tested our sequencing strategy on human prostate cancer xenografts. Next, we enrolled two patients into the clinical protocol and were able to review the results at our STB within 24 days of biopsy. The first patient had metastatic colorectal cancer in which we identified somatic point mutations in NRAS, TP53, AURKA, FAS, and MYH11, plus amplification and overexpression of cyclin-dependent kinase 8 (CDK8). The second patient had malignant melanoma, in which we identified a somatic point mutation in HRAS and a structural rearrangement affecting CDKN2C. The STB identified the CDK8 amplification and Ras mutation as providing a rationale for clinical trials with CDK inhibitors or MEK (mitogenactivated or extracellular signal–regulated protein kinase kinase) and PI3K (phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase) inhibitors, respectively. Integrative high-throughput sequencing of patients with advanced cancer generates a comprehensive, individual mutational landscape to facilitate biomarker-driven clinical trials in oncology.
Polycomb Repressive Complexes (PRC1 and PRC2) mediated epigenetic regulation is critical for maintaining cellular homeostasis. Members of Polycomb Group (PcG) proteins including EZH2, a PRC2 component, are up-regulated in various cancer types, implicating their role in tumorigenesis. Here, we have identified several microRNAs (miRNAs) that are repressed by EZH2. These miRNAs in turn regulate the expression of PRC1 proteins, BMI1 and RING2. We found that ectopic overexpression of EZH2-regulated miRNAs attenuated cancer cell growth and invasiveness, and abrogated cancer stem cell properties. Importantly, expression analysis revealed an inverse correlation between miRNA and PRC protein levels in cell culture and prostate cancer tissues. Taken together, our data has uncovered a coordinate regulation of PRC1 and PRC2 activities that is mediated by miRNAs.
Recurrent gene fusions involving ETS family genes are a distinguishing feature of human prostate cancers, with TMPRSS2-ERG fusions representing the most common subtype. The TMPRSS2-ERG fusion transcript and its splice variants are well characterized in prostate cancers, however not much is known about the levels and regulation of wild-type ERG. By employing an integrative approach, we demonstrate that the TMPRSS2-ERG gene fusion product binds to the ERG locus and drives the over-expression of wild-type ERG in prostate cancers. Knock-down of TMPRSS2-ERG in VCaP cells resulted in the down regulation of wild-type ERG transcription, while stable over-expression of TMPRSS2-ERG in the gene fusion-negative PC3 cells was associated with the up-regulation of wild-type ERG transcript. Further, androgen signaling-mediated up-regulation of TMPRSS2-ERG resulted in the concomitant up-regulation of wild-type ERG transcription in VCaP cells. The loss of wild-type ERG expression was associated with a decrease in the invasive potential of VCaP cells. Importantly, 38% of clinically localized prostate cancers and 27% of metastatic prostate cancers harboring the TMPRSS2-ERG gene fusions exhibited over-expression of wild-type ERG. Taken together, these results provide novel insights into the regulation of ERG in human prostate cancers.
ERG; prostate cancer; gene fusion
Bone is the most common metastatic site for prostate cancer, and osseous metastases are the leading cause of morbidity from this disease. Recent autopsy studies prove that 100% of men who die of prostate cancer have bone involvement. Understanding the biology of prostate cancer and its evolution to an incurable androgen independent phenotype requires an understanding of the genetic and cellular alterations that lead to the seeding and proliferation of tumor foci in bone, as well as the microenvironment in which these metastases arise. No intensive studies, however, have been conducted on osseous metastatic tissues from patients with metastatic prostate cancer due to lack of access to such tissues for profiling and other research.
We demonstrate, for the first time, a reproducible methodology to obtain high quality clinical tumor tissues metastatic to the bone. This technique allowed the procurement of viable metastatic tumor tissue from involved bones in 13 recent autopsies conducted at the University of Michigan, and analyzed the gene expression of these tissues using real time PCR and microarrays.
We present here the discovery of non-ossified bone metastases from multiple patients with advanced prostate cancer and their subsequent characterization and comparison to non-osseous metastases from the same patients
This represents a versatile and practical approach that may be employed to characterize the steps in metastasis and the phenotypic characteristics of osseous metastasis of prostate cancer and to profile RNA, DNA and cDNA from tumor samples metastatic to the bone.
Bone marrow; tumor; metastatic prostate cancer
Using an integrative genomics approach called Amplification Breakpoint Ranking and Assembly (ABRA) analysis, we nominated KRAS as a gene fusion with the ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme UBE2L3 in the DU145 cell line, originally derived from prostate cancer metastasis to the brain. Interestingly, analysis of tissues revealed that 2 of 62 metastatic prostate cancers harbored aberrations at the KRAS locus. In DU145 cells, UBE2L3-KRAS produces a fusion protein, specific knock-down of which, attenuates cell invasion and xenograft growth. Ectopic expression of the UBE2L3-KRAS fusion protein exhibits transforming activity in NIH 3T3 fibroblasts and RWPE prostate epithelial cells in vitro and in vivo. In NIH 3T3 cells, UBE2L3-KRAS attenuates MEK/ERK signaling, commonly engaged by oncogenic mutant KRAS, and instead signals via AKT and p38 MAPK pathways. This is the first report of a gene fusion involving Ras family suggesting that this aberration may drive metastatic progression in a rare subset of prostate cancers.
KRAS; gene fusion; prostate cancer; genomic amplification; bioinformatics
Breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease, exhibiting a wide range of molecular aberrations and clinical outcomes. Here we employed paired-end transcriptome sequencing to explore the landscape of gene fusions in a panel of breast cancer cell lines and tissues. We observed that individual breast cancers harbor an array of expressed gene fusions. We identified two classes of recurrent gene rearrangements involving microtubule associated serine-threonine kinase (MAST) and Notch family genes. Both MAST and Notch family gene fusions exerted significant phenotypic effects in breast epithelial cells. Breast cancer lines harboring Notch gene rearrangements are uniquely sensitive to inhibition of Notch signaling, and over-expression of MAST1 or MAST2 gene fusions had a proliferative effect both in vitro and in vivo. These findings illustrate that recurrent gene rearrangements play significant roles in subsets of carcinomas and suggest that transcriptome sequencing may serve to identify patients with rare, actionable gene fusions.
Recurrent fusions of ETS genes are considered driving mutations in a diverse array of cancers, including Ewing’s sarcoma, acute myeloid leukemia, and prostate cancer. We investigate the mechanisms by which ETS fusions mediate their effects, and find that the product of the predominant ETS gene fusion, TMPRSS2:ERG, interacts in a DNA-independent manner with the enzyme poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase 1 (PARP1) and the catalytic subunit of DNA protein kinase (DNA-PKcs). ETS gene-mediated transcription and cell invasion require PARP1 and DNA-PKcs expression and activity. Importantly, pharmacological inhibition of PARP1 inhibits ETS positive, but not ETS negative, prostate cancer xenograft growth. Finally, overexpression of the TMPRSS2:ERG fusion induces DNA damage, which is potentiated by PARP1 inhibition in a manner similar to that of BRCA1/2-deficiency.
Prostate; Rearrangement; Gene Fusion; TMPRSS2; ERG; DNA-PKcs; PARP1
High-throughput sequencing of polyA+ RNA (RNA-Seq) in human cancer shows remarkable potential to identify both novel markers of disease and uncharacterized aspects of tumor biology, particularly non-coding RNA (ncRNA) species. We employed RNA-Seq on a cohort of 102 prostate tissues and cells lines and performed ab initio transcriptome assembly to discover unannotated ncRNAs. We nominated 121 such Prostate Cancer Associated Transcripts (PCATs) with cancer-specific expression patterns. Among these, we characterized PCAT-1 as a novel prostate-specific regulator of cell proliferation and target of the Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 (PRC2). We further found that high PCAT-1 and PRC2 expression stratified patient tissues into molecular subtypes distinguished by expression signatures of PCAT-1-repressed target genes. Taken together, the findings presented herein identify PCAT-1 as a novel transcriptional repressor implicated in subset of prostate cancer patients. These findings establish the utility of RNA-Seq to identify disease-associated ncRNAs that may improve the stratification of cancer subtypes.
prostate cancer; transcriptome; next generation sequencing; non-coding RNA; EZH2
The discovery of recurrent gene fusions involving Erythroblastosis virus E26 transformation-specific (ETS) family transcription factors in approximately 50% of prostate cancers provides a basis for the molecular subclassification of prostate cancer. Previously, we showed that marked over-expression of SPINK1 (serine peptidase inhibitor, Kazal type 1), which encodes a secreted serine protease inhibitor, defines an aggressive molecular subtype of ETS fusion-negative prostate cancers (SPINK1+/ETS-, ~10% of all prostate cancers). Here, we examined the potential of SPINK1 as an extracellular therapeutic target in prostate cancer. We demonstrate that recombinant SPINK1 protein (rSPINK1) stimulates cell proliferation in benign RWPE and cancerous prostate cells. RWPE cells treated with rSPINK1 or conditioned medium from 22RV1 prostate cancer cells (SPINK1+/ETS-) showed significantly increased cell invasion and intravasation. Knockdown of SPINK1 in 22RV1 cells inhibited cell proliferation, cell invasion, and tumor growth in xenograft assays. Importantly, 22RV1 cell proliferation, invasion and intravasation were attenuated by an anti-SPINK1 monoclonal antibody (mAb). We also demonstrate that SPINK1 partially mediates its neoplastic effects through interaction with the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Administration of anti-SPINK1 mAb or anti-EGFR mAb (cetuximab) to mice bearing 22RV1 xenografts attenuated tumor growth by over 60% and 40% alone, respectively, and approximately 75% when combined, without affecting PC3 xenograft (SPINK1-/ETS-) growth. Taken together, this study qualifies SPINK1 as a therapeutic target in a subset of patients with SPINK1+/ETS- prostate cancer. Similar to antibody targeting of ERBB2 in a subset of breast cancers, our results provide rationale for both the development of humanized anti-SPINK1 monoclonal antibodies and evaluation of EGFR inhibition in SPINK1+/ETS- prostate cancers.
The research community at large is expending considerable resources to sequence the coding region of the genomes of tumors and other human diseases using targeted exome capture (i.e., “whole exome sequencing”). The primary goal of targeted exome sequencing is to identify nonsynonymous mutations that potentially have functional consequences. Here, we demonstrate that whole-exome sequencing data can also be analyzed for comprehensively monitoring somatic copy number alterations (CNAs) by benchmarking the technique against conventional array CGH. A series of 17 matched tumor and normal tissues from patients with metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer was used for this assessment. We show that targeted exome sequencing reliably identifies CNAs that are common in advanced prostate cancer, such as androgen receptor (AR) gain and PTEN loss. Taken together, these data suggest that targeted exome sequencing data can be effectively leveraged for the detection of somatic CNAs in cancer.
While recurrent gene fusions involving ETS family transcription factors are common in prostate cancer, their products are considered “undruggable” by conventional approaches. Recently, rare “targetable” gene fusions (involving the ALK kinase), have been identified in 1–5% of lung cancers1, suggesting that similar rare gene fusions may occur in other common epithelial cancers including prostate cancer. Here we employed paired-end transcriptome sequencing to screen ETS rearrangement negative prostate cancers for targetable gene fusions and identified the SLC45A3-BRAF and ESRP1-RAF1 gene fusions. Expression of SLC45A3-BRAF or ESRP1-RAF1 in prostate cells induced a neoplastic phenotype that was sensitive to RAF and MEK inhibitors. Screening a large cohort of patients, we found that although rare (1–2%), recurrent rearrangements in the RAF pathway tend to occur in advanced prostate cancers, gastric cancers, and melanoma. Taken together, our results emphasize the importance of RAF rearrangements in cancer, suggest that RAF and MEK inhibitors may be useful in a subset of gene fusion harboring solid tumors, and demonstrate that sequencing of tumor transcriptomes and genomes may lead to the identification of rare targetable fusions across cancer types.
While chromosomal rearrangements fusing the androgen-regulated gene TMPRSS2 to the oncogenic ETS transcription factor ERG occur in approximately 50% of prostate cancers, how the fusion products regulate prostate cancer remains unclear. Using chromatin immunoprecipitation coupled with massively parallel sequencing (ChIP-Seq), we found that ERG disrupts androgen receptor (AR) signaling by inhibiting AR expression, binding to and inhibiting AR activity at gene-specific loci, and inducing repressive epigenetic programs via direct activation of the H3K27 methyltransferase EZH2, a Polycomb group protein. These findings provide a working model in which TMPRSS2-ERG plays a critical role in cancer progression by disrupting lineage-specific differentiation of the prostate and potentiating the EZH2-mediated de-differentiation program.
Cancer genomes contain many aberrant gene fusions—a few that drive disease and many more that are nonspecific passengers. We developed an algorithm (the concept signature or ‘ConSig’ score) that nominates biologically important fusions from high-throughput data by assessing their association with ‘molecular concepts’ characteristic of cancer genes, including molecular interactions, pathways and functional annotations. Copy number data supported candidate fusions and suggested a breakpoint principle for intragenic copy number aberrations in fusion partners. By analyzing lung cancer transcriptome sequencing and genomic data, we identified a novel R3HDM2-NFE2 fusion in the H1792 cell line. Lung tissue microarrays revealed 2 of 76 lung cancer patients with genomic rearrangement at the NFE2 locus, suggesting recurrence. Knockdown of NFE2 decreased proliferation and invasion of H1792 cells. Together, these results present a systematic analysis of gene fusions in cancer and describe key characteristics that assist in new fusion discovery.
The neuronal repellent SLIT2 is repressed in a number of cancer types primarily through promoter hypermethylation. SLIT2, however, has not been studied in prostate cancer. Through genome-wide location analysis we identified SLIT2 as a target of Polycomb group (PcG) protein EZH2. The EZH2-containing Polycomb repressive complexes bound to the SLIT2 promoter inhibiting its expression. SLIT2 was down-regulated in a majority of metastatic prostate tumors exhibiting a negative correlation with EZH2. This repressed expression could be restored by methylation inhibitors or EZH2-suppressing compounds. In addition, a low level of SLIT2 expression was associated with aggressive prostate, breast and lung cancers. Functional assays showed that SLIT2 inhibited prostate cancer cell proliferation and invasion. Thus, this study demonstrated for the first time epigenetic silencing of SLIT2 in prostate tumors, and supported SLIT2 as a potential biomarker for aggressive solid tumors. Importantly, PcG-mediated repression may serve as a precursor for the silencing of SLIT2 by DNA methylation in cancer.
Polycomb group proteins; EZH2; SLIT2; prostate cancer; epigenetic silencing; DNA hypermethylation
The second wave of next generation sequencing technologies, referred to as single-molecule sequencing (SMS), carries the promise of profiling samples directly without employing polymerase chain reaction steps used by amplification-based sequencing (AS) methods. To examine the merits of both technologies, we examine mRNA sequencing results from single-molecule and amplification-based sequencing in a set of human cancer cell lines and tissues. We observe a characteristic coverage bias towards high abundance transcripts in amplification-based sequencing. A larger fraction of AS reads cover highly expressed genes, such as those associated with translational processes and housekeeping genes, resulting in relatively lower coverage of genes at low and mid-level abundance. In contrast, the coverage of high abundance transcripts plateaus off using SMS. Consequently, SMS is able to sequence lower- abundance transcripts more thoroughly, including some that are undetected by AS methods; however, these include many more mapping artifacts. A better understanding of the technical and analytical factors introducing platform specific biases in high throughput transcriptome sequencing applications will be critical in cross platform meta-analytic studies.