Array-based Genomic and Epigenomic Studies in Healthy Individuals and Endocrine Tumours

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: The human genome is a dynamic structure, recently recognized to present with significant large-scale structural variation. DNA-copy number changes represent one common type of such variation and is found both between individuals and within the somatic cells of the same individual, especially in disease states like cancer.  Apart from DNA-rearrangements, epigenomic changes are increasingly acknowledged as important events in the maintenance of genomic integrity. In this thesis, different array-based methods have been applied for global genomic and epigenomic profiling of both normal and cancer cells. In paper I, a genomic microarray was established and used to determine DNA-copy number variants (CNVs) in a cohort of 76 healthy individuals from three ethnic populations. We identified 315 CNV regions that in total encompassed ~3,5% of the genome. In paper II, the array was utilized to discover CNVs within several differentiated tissues from the same subject. Six variants were identified providing evidence for somatic mosaicism. In paper III and IV we studied pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas, rare endocrine tumours that most often present as benign and sporadic with unclear genetic/epigenetic cause. Genome-wide DNA-copy number analysis of 53 benign and malignant samples in paper III revealed numerous common and novel chromosomal regions of losses and gains. High frequencies of relatively small overlapping regions of deletions were detected on chromosome 1p arm, encompassing several candidate tumour suppressor genes. In paper IV, an epigenomic map for two histone modifications associated with silent (H3K27me3) or active (H3K4me3) gene transcription, was generated for one malignant pheochromocytoma. Integrated analysis of global histone methylation, copy number alterations and gene expression data aided in the identification of candidate tumour genes.In conclusion, the performed studies have contributed to gain knowledge of CNVs in healthy individuals, and identified regions and genes which are likely associated with the development and progression of pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma.