Co-Activator Arginine Methyltransferase 1(CARM1) is an Estrogen Receptor (ER) cofactor that remodels chromatin for gene regulation via methylation of Histone3. We investigated CARM1 levels and localization across breast cancer tumors in a cohort of patients of either European or African ancestry.
We analyzed CARM1 levels using tissue microarrays with over 800 histological samples from 549 female cancer patients from the US and Nigeria, Africa. We assessed associations between CARM1 expression localized to the nucleus and cytoplasm for 11 distinct variables, including; ER status, Progesterone Receptor status, molecular subtypes, ethnicity, HER2+ status, other clinical variables and survival.
We found that levels of cytoplasmic CARM1 are distinct among tumor sub-types and increased levels are associated with ER-negative (ER-) status. Higher nuclear CARM1 levels are associated with HER2 receptor status. EGFR expression also correlates with localization of CARM1 into the cytoplasm. This suggests there are distinct functions of CARM1 among molecular tumor types. Our data reveals a basal-like subtype association with CARM1, possibly due to expression of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR). Lastly, increased cytoplasmic CARM1, relative to nuclear levels, appear to be associated with self-identified African ethnicity and this result is being further investigated using quantified genetic ancestry measures.
Although it is known to be an ER cofactor in breast cancer, CARM1 expression levels are independent of ER. CARM1 has distinct functions among molecular subtypes, as is indicative of its sub-cellular localization and it may function in subtype etiology. These sub-cellular localization patterns, indicate a novel role beyond its ER cofactor function in breast cancer. Differential localization among ethnic groups may be due to ancestry-specific polymorphisms which alter the gene product.