The association of single nucleotide polymorphisms with endometrial cancer risk and prognosis

O’Mara, Tracy Ann-Maria (2013) The association of single nucleotide polymorphisms with endometrial cancer risk and prognosis. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Endometrial cancer is one of the most common female diseases in developed nations and is the most commonly diagnosed gynaecological cancer in Australia. The disease is commonly classified by histology: endometrioid or non-endometrioid endometrial cancer. While non-endometrioid endometrial cancers are accepted to be high-grade, aggressive cancers, endometrioid cancers (comprising 80% of all endometrial cancers diagnosed) generally carry a favourable patient prognosis.

However, endometrioid endometrial cancer patients endure significant morbidity due to surgery and radiotherapy used for disease treatment, and patients with recurrent disease have a 5-year survival rate of less than 50%. Genetic analysis of women with endometrial cancer could uncover novel markers associated with disease risk and/or prognosis, which could then be used to identify women at high risk and for the use of specialised treatments. Proteases are widely accepted to play an important role in the development and progression of cancer. This PhD project hypothesised that SNPs from two protease gene families, the matrix metalloproteases (MMPs, including their tissue inhibitors, TIMPs) and the tissue kallikrein-related peptidases (KLKs) would be associated with endometrial cancer susceptibility and/or prognosis.

In the first part of this study, optimisation of the genotyping techniques was performed. Results from previously published endometrial cancer genetic association studies were attempted to be validated in a large, multicentre replication set (maximum cases n = 2,888, controls n = 4,483, 3 studies). The rs11224561 progesterone receptor SNP (PGR, A/G) was observed to be associated with increased endometrial cancer risk (per A allele OR 1.31, 95% CI 1.12-1.53; p-trend = 0.001), a result which was initially reported among a Chinese sample set. Previously reported associations for the remaining 8 SNPs investigated for this section of the PhD study were not confirmed, thereby reinforcing the importance of validation of genetic association studies.

To examine the effect of SNPs from the MMP and KLK families on endometrial cancer risk, we selected the most significantly associated MMP and KLK SNPs from genome-wide association study analysis (GWAS) to be genotyped in the GWAS replication set (cases n = 4,725, controls n = 9,803, 13 studies). The significance of the MMP24 rs932562 SNP was unchanged after incorporation of the stage 2 samples (Stage 1 per allele OR 1.18, p = 0.002; Combined Stage 1 and 2 OR 1.09, p = 0.002). The rs10426 SNP, located 3' to KLK10 was predicted by bioinformatic analysis to effect miRNA binding. This SNP was observed in the GWAS stage 1 result to exhibit a recessive effect on endometrial cancer risk, a result which was not validated in the stage 2 sample set (Stage 1 OR 1.44, p = 0.007; Combined Stage 1 and 2 OR 1.14, p = 0.08). Investigation of the regions imputed surrounding the MMP, TIMP and KLK genes did not reveal any significant targets for further analysis.

Analysis of the case data from the endometrial cancer GWAS to identify genetic variation associated with cancer grade did not reveal SNPs from the MMP, TIMP or KLK genes to be statistically significant. However, the representation of SNPs from the MMP, TIMP and KLK families by the GWAS genotyping platform used in this PhD project was examined and observed to be very low, with the genetic variation of four genes (MMP23A, MMP23B, MMP28 and TIMP1) not captured at all by this technique. This suggests that comprehensive candidate gene association studies will be required to assess the role of SNPs from these genes with endometrial cancer risk and prognosis. Meta-analysis of gene expression microarray datasets curated as part of this PhD study identified a number of MMP, TIMP and KLK genes to display differential expression by endometrial cancer status (MMP2, MMP10, MMP11, MMP13, MMP19, MMP25 and KLK1) and histology (MMP2, MMP11, MMP12, MMP26, MMP28, TIMP2, TIMP3, KLK6, KLK7, KLK11 and KLK12). In light of these findings these genes should be prioritised for future targeted genetic association studies.

Two SNPs located 43.5 Mb apart on chromosome 15 were observed from the GWAS analysis to be associated with increased endometrial cancer grade, results that were validated in silico in two independent datasets. One of these SNPs, rs8035725 is located in the 5' untranslated region of a MYC promoter binding protein DENND4A (Stage 1 OR 1.15, p = 9.85 x 10P -5 P, combined Stage 1 and in silico validation OR 1.13, p = 5.24 x 10P -6 P). This SNP has previously been reported to alter the expression of PTPLAD1, a gene involved in the synthesis of very long fatty acid chains and in the Rac1 signaling pathway. Meta-analysis of gene expression microarray data found PTPLAD1 to display increased expression in the aggressive non-endometrioid histology compared with endometrioid endometrial cancer, suggesting that the causal SNP underlying the observed genetic association may influence expression of this gene. Neither rs8035725 nor significant SNPs identified by imputation were predicted bioinformatically to affect transcription factor binding sites, indicating that further studies are required to assess their potential effect on other regulatory elements.

The other grade- associated SNP, rs6606792, is located upstream of an inferred pseudogene, ELMO2P1 (Stage 1 OR 1.12, p = 5 x 10P -5 P; combined Stage 1 and in silico validation OR 1.09, p = 3.56 x 10P -5 P). Imputation of the ±1 Mb region surrounding this SNP revealed a cluster of significantly associated variants which are predicted to abolish various transcription factor binding sites, and would be expected to decrease gene expression. ELMO2P1 was not included on the microarray platforms collected for this PhD, and so its expression could not be investigated.

However, the high sequence homology of ELMO2P1 with ELMO2, a gene important to cell motility, indicates that ELMO2 could be the parent gene for ELMO2P1 and as such, ELMO2P1 could function to regulate the expression of ELMO2. Increased expression of ELMO2 was seen to be associated with increasing endometrial cancer grade, as well as with aggressive endometrial cancer histological subtypes by microarray meta-analysis. Thus, it is hypothesised that SNPs in linkage disequilibrium with rs6606792 decrease the transcription of ELMO2P1, reducing the regulatory effect of ELMO2P1 on ELMO2 expression. Consequently, ELMO2 expression is increased, cell motility is enhanced leading to an aggressive endometrial cancer phenotype.

In summary, these findings have identified several areas of research for further study. The results presented in this thesis provide evidence that a SNP in PGR is associated with risk of developing endometrial cancer. This PhD study also reports two independent loci on chromosome 15 to be associated with increased endometrial cancer grade, and furthermore, genes associated with these SNPs to be differentially expressed according in aggressive subtypes and/or by grade. The studies reported in this thesis support the need for comprehensive SNP association studies on prioritised MMP, TIMP and KLK genes in large sample sets. Until these studies are performed, the role of MMP, TIMP and KLK genetic variation remains unclear. Overall, this PhD study has contributed to the understanding of genetic variation involvement in endometrial cancer susceptibility and prognosis. Importantly, the genetic regions highlighted in this study could lead to the identification of novel gene targets to better understand the biology of endometrial cancer and also aid in the development of therapeutics directed at treating this disease.

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ID Code: 63648
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Clements, Judith & Spurdle, Amanda
Keywords: endometrial cancer, gene expression microarray, genome-wide association study (GWAS), kallikrein-related serine protease (KLK), progesterone receptor (PGR), matrix metalloprotease (MMP), single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), tissue inhibitor of mmp (TIMP)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 22 Oct 2013 23:27
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2015 02:54

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