Touat M, Li YY, Boynton AN, Spurr LF, Iorgulescu BJ, Bohrson CL, Cortes-Ciriano I, Birzu C, Geduldig JE, Pelton K, Lim-Fat MJ, Pal S, Ferrer-Luna R, Ramkissoon SH, Dubois F, Bellamy C, Currimjee N, Bonardi J, Qian K, Ho P, Malinowski S, Taquet L, Jones RE, Shetty A, Chow K-H, Sharaf R, Pavlick D, Albacker LA, Younan N, Baldini C, Verreault M, Giry M, Guillerm E, Ammari S, Beuvon F, Mokhtari K, Alentorn A, Dehais C, Houillier C, Laigle-Donadey F, Psimaras D, Lee EQ, Nayak L, McFaline-Figueroa RJ, Carpentier A, Cornu P, Capelle L, Mathon B, Barnholtz-Sloan JS, Chakravarti A, Bi WL, Chiocca AE, Fehnel KP, Alexandrescu S, Chi SN, Haas-Kogan D, Batchelor TT, Frampton GM, Alexander BM, Huang RY, Ligon AH, Coulet F, Delattre J-Y, Hoang-Xuan K, Meredith DM, Santagata S, Duval A, Sanson M, Cherniack AD, Wen PY, Reardon DA, Marabelle A, Park PJ, Idbaih A, Beroukhim R, Bandopadhayay P, Bielle F, Ligon KL. Mechanisms and therapeutic implications of hypermutation in gliomas. Nature 2020;580(7804):517-523.Abstract
A high tumour mutational burden (hypermutation) is observed in some gliomas; however, the mechanisms by which hypermutation develops and whether it predicts the response to immunotherapy are poorly understood. Here we comprehensively analyse the molecular determinants of mutational burden and signatures in 10,294 gliomas. We delineate two main pathways to hypermutation: a de novo pathway associated with constitutional defects in DNA polymerase and mismatch repair (MMR) genes, and a more common post-treatment pathway, associated with acquired resistance driven by MMR defects in chemotherapy-sensitive gliomas that recur after treatment with the chemotherapy drug temozolomide. Experimentally, the mutational signature of post-treatment hypermutated gliomas was recapitulated by temozolomide-induced damage in cells with MMR deficiency. MMR-deficient gliomas were characterized by a lack of prominent T cell infiltrates, extensive intratumoral heterogeneity, poor patient survival and a low rate of response to PD-1 blockade. Moreover, although bulk analyses did not detect microsatellite instability in MMR-deficient gliomas, single-cell whole-genome sequencing analysis of post-treatment hypermutated glioma cells identified microsatellite mutations. These results show that chemotherapy can drive the acquisition of hypermutated populations without promoting a response to PD-1 blockade and supports the diagnostic use of mutational burden and signatures in cancer.
Cancer is driven by genetic change, and the advent of massively parallel sequencing has enabled systematic documentation of this variation at the whole-genome scale1-3. Here we report the integrative analysis of 2,658 whole-cancer genomes and their matching normal tissues across 38 tumour types from the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) Consortium of the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) and The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). We describe the generation of the PCAWG resource, facilitated by international data sharing using compute clouds. On average, cancer genomes contained 4-5 driver mutations when combining coding and non-coding genomic elements; however, in around 5% of cases no drivers were identified, suggesting that cancer driver discovery is not yet complete. Chromothripsis, in which many clustered structural variants arise in a single catastrophic event, is frequently an early event in tumour evolution; in acral melanoma, for example, these events precede most somatic point mutations and affect several cancer-associated genes simultaneously. Cancers with abnormal telomere maintenance often originate from tissues with low replicative activity and show several mechanisms of preventing telomere attrition to critical levels. Common and rare germline variants affect patterns of somatic mutation, including point mutations, structural variants and somatic retrotransposition. A collection of papers from the PCAWG Consortium describes non-coding mutations that drive cancer beyond those in the TERT promoter4; identifies new signatures of mutational processes that cause base substitutions, small insertions and deletions and structural variation5,6; analyses timings and patterns of tumour evolution7; describes the diverse transcriptional consequences of somatic mutation on splicing, expression levels, fusion genes and promoter activity8,9; and evaluates a range of more-specialized features of cancer genomes8,10-18.
A key mutational process in cancer is structural variation, in which rearrangements delete, amplify or reorder genomic segments that range in size from kilobases to whole chromosomes1-7. Here we develop methods to group, classify and describe somatic structural variants, using data from the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) Consortium of the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) and The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), which aggregated whole-genome sequencing data from 2,658 cancers across 38 tumour types8. Sixteen signatures of structural variation emerged. Deletions have a multimodal size distribution, assort unevenly across tumour types and patients, are enriched in late-replicating regions and correlate with inversions. Tandem duplications also have a multimodal size distribution, but are enriched in early-replicating regions-as are unbalanced translocations. Replication-based mechanisms of rearrangement generate varied chromosomal structures with low-level copy-number gains and frequent inverted rearrangements. One prominent structure consists of 2-7 templates copied from distinct regions of the genome strung together within one locus. Such cycles of templated insertions correlate with tandem duplications, and-in liver cancer-frequently activate the telomerase gene TERT. A wide variety of rearrangement processes are active in cancer, which generate complex configurations of the genome upon which selection can act.
The 4D Nucleome Network aims to develop and apply approaches to map the structure and dynamics of the human and mouse genomes in space and time with the goal of gaining deeper mechanistic insights into how the nucleus is organized and functions. The project will develop and benchmark experimental and computational approaches for measuring genome conformation and nuclear organization, and investigate how these contribute to gene regulation and other genome functions. Validated experimental technologies will be combined with biophysical approaches to generate quantitative models of spatial genome organization in different biological states, both in cell populations and in single cells.
Cervical cancer remains one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Here we report the extensive molecular characterization of 228 primary cervical cancers, the largest comprehensive genomic study of cervical cancer to date. We observed striking APOBEC mutagenesis patterns and identified SHKBP1, ERBB3, CASP8, HLA-A, and TGFBR2 as novel significantly mutated genes in cervical cancer. We also discovered novel amplifications in immune targets CD274/PD-L1 and PDCD1LG2/PD-L2, and the BCAR4 lncRNA that has been associated with response to lapatinib. HPV integration was observed in all HPV18-related cases and 76% of HPV16-related cases, and was associated with structural aberrations and increased target gene expression. We identified a unique set of endometrial-like cervical cancers, comprised predominantly of HPV-negative tumors with high frequencies of KRAS, ARID1A, and PTEN mutations. Integrative clustering of 178 samples identified Keratin-low Squamous, Keratin-high Squamous, and Adenocarcinoma-rich subgroups. These molecular analyses reveal new potential therapeutic targets for cervical cancers.
Oesophageal cancers are prominent worldwide; however, there are few targeted therapies and survival rates for these cancers remain dismal. Here we performed a comprehensive molecular analysis of 164 carcinomas of the oesophagus derived from Western and Eastern populations. Beyond known histopathological and epidemiologic distinctions, molecular features differentiated oesophageal squamous cell carcinomas from oesophageal adenocarcinomas. Oesophageal squamous cell carcinomas resembled squamous carcinomas of other organs more than they did oesophageal adenocarcinomas. Our analyses identified three molecular subclasses of oesophageal squamous cell carcinomas, but none showed evidence for an aetiological role of human papillomavirus. Squamous cell carcinomas showed frequent genomic amplifications of CCND1 and SOX2 and/or TP63, whereas ERBB2, VEGFA and GATA4 and GATA6 were more commonly amplified in adenocarcinomas. Oesophageal adenocarcinomas strongly resembled the chromosomally unstable variant of gastric adenocarcinoma, suggesting that these cancers could be considered a single disease entity. However, some molecular features, including DNA hypermethylation, occurred disproportionally in oesophageal adenocarcinomas. These data provide a framework to facilitate more rational categorization of these tumours and a foundation for new therapies.
Cheloufi S, Elling U, Hopfgartner B, Jung YL, Murn J, Ninova M, Hubmann M, Badeaux AI, Euong Ang C, Tenen D, Wesche DJ, Abazova N, Hogue M, Tasdemir N, Brumbaugh J, Rathert P, Jude J, Ferrari F, Blanco A, Fellner M, Wenzel D, Zinner M, Vidal SE, Bell O, Stadtfeld M, Chang HY, Almouzni G, Lowe SW, Rinn J, Wernig M, Aravin A, Shi Y, Park PJ, Penninger JM, Zuber J, Hochedlinger K. The histone chaperone CAF-1 safeguards somatic cell identity. Nature 2015;528(7581):218-24.Abstract
Cellular differentiation involves profound remodelling of chromatic landscapes, yet the mechanisms by which somatic cell identity is subsequently maintained remain incompletely understood. To further elucidate regulatory pathways that safeguard the somatic state, we performed two comprehensive RNA interference (RNAi) screens targeting chromatin factors during transcription-factor-mediated reprogramming of mouse fibroblasts to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). Subunits of the chromatin assembly factor-1 (CAF-1) complex, including Chaf1a and Chaf1b, emerged as the most prominent hits from both screens, followed by modulators of lysine sumoylation and heterochromatin maintenance. Optimal modulation of both CAF-1 and transcription factor levels increased reprogramming efficiency by several orders of magnitude and facilitated iPS cell formation in as little as 4 days. Mechanistically, CAF-1 suppression led to a more accessible chromatin structure at enhancer elements early during reprogramming. These changes were accompanied by a decrease in somatic heterochromatin domains, increased binding of Sox2 to pluripotency-specific targets and activation of associated genes. Notably, suppression of CAF-1 also enhanced the direct conversion of B cells into macrophages and fibroblasts into neurons. Together, our findings reveal the histone chaperone CAF-1 to be a novel regulator of somatic cell identity during transcription-factor-induced cell-fate transitions and provide a potential strategy to modulate cellular plasticity in a regenerative setting.
The Cancer Genome Atlas profiled 279 head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCCs) to provide a comprehensive landscape of somatic genomic alterations. Here we show that human-papillomavirus-associated tumours are dominated by helical domain mutations of the oncogene PIK3CA, novel alterations involving loss of TRAF3, and amplification of the cell cycle gene E2F1. Smoking-related HNSCCs demonstrate near universal loss-of-function TP53 mutations and CDKN2A inactivation with frequent copy number alterations including amplification of 3q26/28 and 11q13/22. A subgroup of oral cavity tumours with favourable clinical outcomes displayed infrequent copy number alterations in conjunction with activating mutations of HRAS or PIK3CA, coupled with inactivating mutations of CASP8, NOTCH1 and TP53. Other distinct subgroups contained loss-of-function alterations of the chromatin modifier NSD1, WNT pathway genes AJUBA and FAT1, and activation of oxidative stress factor NFE2L2, mainly in laryngeal tumours. Therapeutic candidate alterations were identified in most HNSCCs.
De Los Angeles A, Ferrari F, Xi R, Fujiwara Y, Benvenisty N, Deng H, Hochedlinger K, Jaenisch R, Lee S, Leitch HG, Lensch WM, Lujan E, Pei D, Rossant J, Wernig M, Park PJ, Daley GQ. Hallmarks of pluripotency. Nature 2015;525(7570):469-78.Abstract
Stem cells self-renew and generate specialized progeny through differentiation, but vary in the range of cells and tissues they generate, a property called developmental potency. Pluripotent stem cells produce all cells of an organism, while multipotent or unipotent stem cells regenerate only specific lineages or tissues. Defining stem-cell potency relies upon functional assays and diagnostic transcriptional, epigenetic and metabolic states. Here we describe functional and molecular hallmarks of pluripotent stem cells, propose a checklist for their evaluation, and illustrate how forensic genomics can validate their provenance.
De Los Angeles A*, Ferrari F*, Fujiwara Y, Mathieu R, Lee S, Lee S, Tu H-C, Ross S, Chou S, Nguyen M, Wu Z, Theunissen TW, Powell BE, Imsoonthornruksa S, Chen J, Borkent M, Krupalnik V, Lujan E, Wernig M, Hanna JH, Hochedlinger K, Pei D, Jaenisch R, Deng H, Orkin SH, Park PJ**, Daley GQ**. Failure to replicate the STAP cell phenomenon. Nature 2015;525(7570):E6-9.
Gastric cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths, but analysis of its molecular and clinical characteristics has been complicated by histological and aetiological heterogeneity. Here we describe a comprehensive molecular evaluation of 295 primary gastric adenocarcinomas as part of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project. We propose a molecular classification dividing gastric cancer into four subtypes: tumours positive for Epstein-Barr virus, which display recurrent PIK3CA mutations, extreme DNA hypermethylation, and amplification of JAK2, CD274 (also known as PD-L1) and PDCD1LG2 (also known as PD-L2); microsatellite unstable tumours, which show elevated mutation rates, including mutations of genes encoding targetable oncogenic signalling proteins; genomically stable tumours, which are enriched for the diffuse histological variant and mutations of RHOA or fusions involving RHO-family GTPase-activating proteins; and tumours with chromosomal instability, which show marked aneuploidy and focal amplification of receptor tyrosine kinases. Identification of these subtypes provides a roadmap for patient stratification and trials of targeted therapies.
Urothelial carcinoma of the bladder is a common malignancy that causes approximately 150,000 deaths per year worldwide. So far, no molecularly targeted agents have been approved for treatment of the disease. As part of The Cancer Genome Atlas project, we report here an integrated analysis of 131 urothelial carcinomas to provide a comprehensive landscape of molecular alterations. There were statistically significant recurrent mutations in 32 genes, including multiple genes involved in cell-cycle regulation, chromatin regulation, and kinase signalling pathways, as well as 9 genes not previously reported as significantly mutated in any cancer. RNA sequencing revealed four expression subtypes, two of which (papillary-like and basal/squamous-like) were also evident in microRNA sequencing and protein data. Whole-genome and RNA sequencing identified recurrent in-frame activating FGFR3-TACC3 fusions and expression or integration of several viruses (including HPV16) that are associated with gene inactivation. Our analyses identified potential therapeutic targets in 69% of the tumours, including 42% with targets in the phosphatidylinositol-3-OH kinase/AKT/mTOR pathway and 45% with targets (including ERBB2) in the RTK/MAPK pathway. Chromatin regulatory genes were more frequently mutated in urothelial carcinoma than in any other common cancer studied so far, indicating the future possibility of targeted therapy for chromatin abnormalities.
Adenocarcinoma of the lung is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Here we report molecular profiling of 230 resected lung adenocarcinomas using messenger RNA, microRNA and DNA sequencing integrated with copy number, methylation and proteomic analyses. High rates of somatic mutation were seen (mean 8.9 mutations per megabase). Eighteen genes were statistically significantly mutated, including RIT1 activating mutations and newly described loss-of-function MGA mutations which are mutually exclusive with focal MYC amplification. EGFR mutations were more frequent in female patients, whereas mutations in RBM10 were more common in males. Aberrations in NF1, MET, ERBB2 and RIT1 occurred in 13% of cases and were enriched in samples otherwise lacking an activated oncogene, suggesting a driver role for these events in certain tumours. DNA and mRNA sequence from the same tumour highlighted splicing alterations driven by somatic genomic changes, including exon 14 skipping in MET mRNA in 4% of cases. MAPK and PI(3)K pathway activity, when measured at the protein level, was explained by known mutations in only a fraction of cases, suggesting additional, unexplained mechanisms of pathway activation. These data establish a foundation for classification and further investigations of lung adenocarcinoma molecular pathogenesis.
Ho JWK*, Jung YL*, Liu T*, Alver BH, Lee S, Ikegami K, Sohn K-A, Minoda A, Tolstorukov MY, Appert A, Parker SCJ, Gu T, Kundaje A, Riddle NC, Bishop EP, Egelhofer TA, Hu S'en S, Alekseyenko AA, Rechtsteiner A, Asker D, Belsky JA, Bowman SK, Chen BQ, Chen RA-J, Day DS, Dong Y, Dose AC, Duan X, Epstein CB, Ercan S, Feingold EA, Ferrari F, Garrigues JM, Gehlenborg N, Good PJ, Haseley P, He D, Herrmann M, Hoffman MM, Jeffers TE, Kharchenko PV, Kolasinska-Zwierz P, Kotwaliwale CV, Kumar N, Langley SA, Larschan EN, Latorre I, Libbrecht MW, Lin X, Park R, Pazin MJ, Pham HN, Plachetka A, Qin B, Schwartz YB, Shoresh N, Stempor P, Vielle A, Wang C, Whittle CM, Xue H, Kingston RE, Kim JH, Bernstein BE, Dernburg AF, Pirrotta V, Kuroda MI, Noble WS, Tullius TD, Kellis M, MacAlpine DM**, Strome S**, Elgin SCR**, Liu XS**, Lieb JD**, Ahringer J**, Karpen GH**, Park PJ**. Comparative analysis of metazoan chromatin organization. Nature 2014;512(7515):449-52.Abstract
Genome function is dynamically regulated in part by chromatin, which consists of the histones, non-histone proteins and RNA molecules that package DNA. Studies in Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster have contributed substantially to our understanding of molecular mechanisms of genome function in humans, and have revealed conservation of chromatin components and mechanisms. Nevertheless, the three organisms have markedly different genome sizes, chromosome architecture and gene organization. On human and fly chromosomes, for example, pericentric heterochromatin flanks single centromeres, whereas worm chromosomes have dispersed heterochromatin-like regions enriched in the distal chromosomal 'arms', and centromeres distributed along their lengths. To systematically investigate chromatin organization and associated gene regulation across species, we generated and analysed a large collection of genome-wide chromatin data sets from cell lines and developmental stages in worm, fly and human. Here we present over 800 new data sets from our ENCODE and modENCODE consortia, bringing the total to over 1,400. Comparison of combinatorial patterns of histone modifications, nuclear lamina-associated domains, organization of large-scale topological domains, chromatin environment at promoters and enhancers, nucleosome positioning, and DNA replication patterns reveals many conserved features of chromatin organization among the three organisms. We also find notable differences in the composition and locations of repressive chromatin. These data sets and analyses provide a rich resource for comparative and species-specific investigations of chromatin composition, organization and function.
Gerstein MB* **, Rozowsky J*, Yan K-K*, Wang D*, Cheng C*, Brown JB*, Davis CA*, Hillier LD*, Sisu C*, Li JJ*, Pei B*, Harmanci AO*, Duff MO*, Djebali S*, Alexander RP, Alver BH, Auerbach R, Bell K, Bickel PJ, Boeck ME, Boley NP, Booth BW, Cherbas L, Cherbas P, Di C, Dobin A, Drenkow J, Ewing B, Fang G, Fastuca M, Feingold EA, Frankish A, Gao G, Good PJ, Guigó R, Hammonds A, Harrow J, Hoskins RA, Howald C, Hu L, Huang H, Hubbard TJP, Huynh C, Jha S, Kasper D, Kato M, Kaufman TC, Kitchen RR, Ladewig E, Lagarde J, Lai E, Leng J, Lu Z, MacCoss M, May G, McWhirter R, Merrihew G, Miller DM, Mortazavi A, Murad R, Oliver B, Olson S, Park PJ, Pazin MJ, Perrimon N, Pervouchine D, Reinke V, Reymond A, Robinson G, Samsonova A, Saunders GI, Schlesinger F, Sethi A, Slack FJ, Spencer WC, Stoiber MH, Strasbourger P, Tanzer A, Thompson OA, Wan KH, Wang G, Wang H, Watkins KL, Wen J, Wen K, Xue C, Yang L, Yip K, Zaleski C, Zhang Y, Zheng H, Brenner SE**, Graveley BR**, Celniker SE**, Gingeras TR**, Waterston R**. Comparative analysis of the transcriptome across distant species. Nature 2014;512(7515):445-8.Abstract
The transcriptome is the readout of the genome. Identifying common features in it across distant species can reveal fundamental principles. To this end, the ENCODE and modENCODE consortia have generated large amounts of matched RNA-sequencing data for human, worm and fly. Uniform processing and comprehensive annotation of these data allow comparison across metazoan phyla, extending beyond earlier within-phylum transcriptome comparisons and revealing ancient, conserved features. Specifically, we discover co-expression modules shared across animals, many of which are enriched in developmental genes. Moreover, we use expression patterns to align the stages in worm and fly development and find a novel pairing between worm embryo and fly pupae, in addition to the embryo-to-embryo and larvae-to-larvae pairings. Furthermore, we find that the extent of non-canonical, non-coding transcription is similar in each organism, per base pair. Finally, we find in all three organisms that the gene-expression levels, both coding and non-coding, can be quantitatively predicted from chromatin features at the promoter using a 'universal model' based on a single set of organism-independent parameters.
The human genome encodes the blueprint of life, but the function of the vast majority of its nearly three billion bases is unknown. The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project has systematically mapped regions of transcription, transcription factor association, chromatin structure and histone modification. These data enabled us to assign biochemical functions for 80% of the genome, in particular outside of the well-studied protein-coding regions. Many discovered candidate regulatory elements are physically associated with one another and with expressed genes, providing new insights into the mechanisms of gene regulation. The newly identified elements also show a statistical correspondence to sequence variants linked to human disease, and can thereby guide interpretation of this variation. Overall, the project provides new insights into the organization and regulation of our genes and genome, and is an expansive resource of functional annotations for biomedical research.
Lung squamous cell carcinoma is a common type of lung cancer, causing approximately 400,000 deaths per year worldwide. Genomic alterations in squamous cell lung cancers have not been comprehensively characterized, and no molecularly targeted agents have been specifically developed for its treatment. As part of The Cancer Genome Atlas, here we profile 178 lung squamous cell carcinomas to provide a comprehensive landscape of genomic and epigenomic alterations. We show that the tumour type is characterized by complex genomic alterations, with a mean of 360 exonic mutations, 165 genomic rearrangements, and 323 segments of copy number alteration per tumour. We find statistically recurrent mutations in 11 genes, including mutation of TP53 in nearly all specimens. Previously unreported loss-of-function mutations are seen in the HLA-A class I major histocompatibility gene. Significantly altered pathways included NFE2L2 and KEAP1 in 34%, squamous differentiation genes in 44%, phosphatidylinositol-3-OH kinase pathway genes in 47%, and CDKN2A and RB1 in 72% of tumours. We identified a potential therapeutic target in most tumours, offering new avenues of investigation for the treatment of squamous cell lung cancers.
To characterize somatic alterations in colorectal carcinoma, we conducted a genome-scale analysis of 276 samples, analysing exome sequence, DNA copy number, promoter methylation and messenger RNA and microRNA expression. A subset of these samples (97) underwent low-depth-of-coverage whole-genome sequencing. In total, 16% of colorectal carcinomas were found to be hypermutated: three-quarters of these had the expected high microsatellite instability, usually with hypermethylation and MLH1 silencing, and one-quarter had somatic mismatch-repair gene and polymerase ε (POLE) mutations. Excluding the hypermutated cancers, colon and rectum cancers were found to have considerably similar patterns of genomic alteration. Twenty-four genes were significantly mutated, and in addition to the expected APC, TP53, SMAD4, PIK3CA and KRAS mutations, we found frequent mutations in ARID1A, SOX9 and FAM123B. Recurrent copy-number alterations include potentially drug-targetable amplifications of ERBB2 and newly discovered amplification of IGF2. Recurrent chromosomal translocations include the fusion of NAV2 and WNT pathway member TCF7L1. Integrative analyses suggest new markers for aggressive colorectal carcinoma and an important role for MYC-directed transcriptional activation and repression.
We analysed primary breast cancers by genomic DNA copy number arrays, DNA methylation, exome sequencing, messenger RNA arrays, microRNA sequencing and reverse-phase protein arrays. Our ability to integrate information across platforms provided key insights into previously defined gene expression subtypes and demonstrated the existence of four main breast cancer classes when combining data from five platforms, each of which shows significant molecular heterogeneity. Somatic mutations in only three genes (TP53, PIK3CA and GATA3) occurred at >10% incidence across all breast cancers; however, there were numerous subtype-associated and novel gene mutations including the enrichment of specific mutations in GATA3, PIK3CA and MAP3K1 with the luminal A subtype. We identified two novel protein-expression-defined subgroups, possibly produced by stromal/microenvironmental elements, and integrated analyses identified specific signalling pathways dominant in each molecular subtype including a HER2/phosphorylated HER2/EGFR/phosphorylated EGFR signature within the HER2-enriched expression subtype. Comparison of basal-like breast tumours with high-grade serous ovarian tumours showed many molecular commonalities, indicating a related aetiology and similar therapeutic opportunities. The biological finding of the four main breast cancer subtypes caused by different subsets of genetic and epigenetic abnormalities raises the hypothesis that much of the clinically observable plasticity and heterogeneity occurs within, and not across, these major biological subtypes of breast cancer.
The evolution of sex chromosomes has resulted in numerous species in which females inherit two X chromosomes but males have a single X, thus requiring dosage compensation. MSL (Male-specific lethal) complex increases transcription on the single X chromosome of Drosophila males to equalize expression of X-linked genes between the sexes. The biochemical mechanisms used for dosage compensation must function over a wide dynamic range of transcription levels and differential expression patterns. It has been proposed that the MSL complex regulates transcriptional elongation to control dosage compensation, a model subsequently supported by mapping of the MSL complex and MSL-dependent histone 4 lysine 16 acetylation to the bodies of X-linked genes in males, with a bias towards 3' ends. However, experimental analysis of MSL function at the mechanistic level has been challenging owing to the small magnitude of the chromosome-wide effect and the lack of an in vitro system for biochemical analysis. Here we use global run-on sequencing (GRO-seq) to examine the specific effect of the MSL complex on RNA Polymerase II (RNAP II) on a genome-wide level. Results indicate that the MSL complex enhances transcription by facilitating the progression of RNAP II across the bodies of active X-linked genes. Improving transcriptional output downstream of typical gene-specific controls may explain how dosage compensation can be imposed on the diverse set of genes along an entire chromosome.