Chromothripsis is a mutational phenomenon characterized by massive, clustered genomic rearrangements that occurs in cancer and other diseases. Recent studies in selected cancer types have suggested that chromothripsis may be more common than initially inferred from low-resolution copy-number data. Here, as part of the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) Consortium of the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) and The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), we analyze patterns of chromothripsis across 2,658 tumors from 38 cancer types using whole-genome sequencing data. We find that chromothripsis events are pervasive across cancers, with a frequency of more than 50% in several cancer types. Whereas canonical chromothripsis profiles display oscillations between two copy-number states, a considerable fraction of events involve multiple chromosomes and additional structural alterations. In addition to non-homologous end joining, we detect signatures of replication-associated processes and templated insertions. Chromothripsis contributes to oncogene amplification and to inactivation of genes such as mismatch-repair-related genes. These findings show that chromothripsis is a major process that drives genome evolution in human cancer.
Rodriguez-Martin B, Alvarez EG, Baez-Ortega A, Zamora J, Supek F, Demeulemeester J, Santamarina M, Ju YS, Temes J, Garcia-Souto D, Detering H, Li Y, Rodriguez-Castro J, Dueso-Barroso A, Bruzos AL, Dentro SC, Blanco MG, Contino G, Ardeljan D, Tojo M, Roberts ND, Zumalave S, Edwards PAW, Weischenfeldt J, Puiggròs M, Chong Z, Chen K, Lee EA, Wala JA, Raine K, Butler A, Waszak SM, Navarro FCP, Schumacher SE, Monlong J, Maura F, Bolli N, Bourque G, Gerstein M, Park PJ, Wedge DC, Beroukhim R, Torrents D, Korbel JO, Martincorena I, Fitzgerald RC, Van Loo P, Kazazian HH, Burns KH, Group PCAWGSVW, Campbell PJ, Tubio JMC, Consortium PCAWG. Pan-cancer analysis of whole genome identifies driver rearrangements promoted by LINE-1 retrotransposition [Internet]. Nature Genetics 2020;52(3):306-319. Publisher's VersionAbstract
About half of all cancers have somatic integrations of retrotransposons. Here, to characterize their role in oncogenesis, we analyzed the patterns and mechanisms of somatic retrotransposition in 2,954 cancer genomes from 38 histological cancer subtypes within the framework of the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) project. We identified 19,166 somatically acquired retrotransposition events, which affected 35% of samples and spanned a range of event types. Long interspersed nuclear element (LINE-1; L1 hereafter) insertions emerged as the first most frequent type of somatic structural variation in esophageal adenocarcinoma, and the second most frequent in head-and-neck and colorectal cancers. Aberrant L1 integrations can delete megabase-scale regions of a chromosome, which sometimes leads to the removal of tumor-suppressor genes, and can induce complex translocations and large-scale duplications. Somatic retrotranspositions can also initiate breakage-fusion-bridge cycles, leading to high-level amplification of oncogenes. These observations illuminate a relevant role of L1 retrotransposition in remodeling the cancer genome, with potential implications for the development of human tumors.