3 years ago

Ribosomal DNA copy number amplification and loss in human cancers is linked to tumor genetic context, nucleolus activity, and proliferation

Meng Wang, Bernardo Lemos

by Meng Wang, Bernardo Lemos

Ribosomal RNAs (rRNAs) are transcribed from two multicopy DNA arrays: the 5S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) array residing in a single human autosome and the 45S rDNA array residing in five human autosomes. The arrays are among the most variable segments of the genome, exhibit concerted copy number variation (cCNV), encode essential components of the ribosome, and modulate global gene expression. Here we combined whole genome data from >700 tumors and paired normal tissues to provide a portrait of rDNA variation in human tissues and cancers of diverse mutational signatures, including stomach and lung adenocarcinomas, ovarian cancers, and others of the TCGA panel. We show that cancers undergo coupled 5S rDNA array expansion and 45S rDNA loss that is accompanied by increased estimates of proliferation rate and nucleolar activity. These somatic changes in rDNA CN occur in a background of over 10-fold naturally occurring rDNA CN variation across individuals and cCNV of 5S-45S arrays in some but not all tissues. Analysis of genetic context revealed associations between cancer rDNA CN amplification or loss and the presence of specific somatic alterations, including somatic SNPs and copy number gain/losses in protein coding genes across the cancer genome. For instance, somatic inactivation of the tumor suppressor gene TP53 emerged with a strong association with coupled 5S expansion / 45S loss in several cancers. Our results uncover frequent and contrasting changes in the 5S and 45S rDNA along rapidly proliferating cell lineages with high nucleolar activity. We suggest that 5S rDNA amplification facilitates increased proliferation, nucleolar activity, and ribosomal synthesis in cancer, whereas 45S rDNA loss emerges as a byproduct of transcription-replication conflict in rapidly replicating tumor cells. The observations raise the prospects of using the rDNA arrays as re-emerging targets for the design of novel strategies in cancer therapy.

Publisher URL: http://feeds.plos.org/~r/plosgenetics/NewArticles/~3/A9y1t4fW-Tk/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006994

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