Genetic and Epigenetic Variation in the Human Genome : Analysis of Phenotypically Normal Individuals and Patients Affected with Brain Tumors
Abstract: Genetic and epigenetic variation is a key determinant of human diversity and has an impact on disease predisposition. Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and copy number polymorphisms (CNPs) are the main forms of genetic variation. The challenge is to distinguish normal variations from disease-associated changes. Combination of genetic and epigenetic alterations, often together with an environmental component, can cause cancer. In paper I, we investigated possible alterations affecting the transcriptional regulation of PDGFRα in patients affected with central nervous system tumors by characterizing the haplotype combinations in the PDGFRA gene promoter. A specific over-representation of one haplotype (H2δ) in primitive neuroectodermal tumors and ependymomas was observed, suggesting a functional role for the ZNF148/PDGFRα pathway in the tumor pathogenesis. In paper II, 50 glioblastomas were analyzed for DNA copy number variation with a chromosome 22 tiling genomic array. While 20% of tumors displayed monosomy 22, copy number variations affecting a portion of chromosome 22 were found in 14% of cases. This implies the presence of genes involved in glioblastoma development on 22q. Paper III described the analysis of copy number variation of 37 ependymomas using the same array. We detected monosomy in 51.5% of the samples. In addition, we identified two overlapping germline deletions of 2.2 Mb and 320 kb (the latter designated as Ep CNP). In order to investigate whether Ep CNP was a common polymorphism in the normal population or had an association with ependymoma development, we constructed a high-resolution PCR product-based microarray covering this locus (paper IV). For this purpose, we developed a program called Sequence Allocator, which automates the process of array design. This approach allowed assessment of copy number variation within regions of segmental duplications. Our results revealed that gains or deletions were identical in size and encompassed 290 kb. Therefore, papers I-IV suggest that some SNPs and CNPs can be regarded as tumor-associated polymorphisms. Finally, paper V describes variation of DNA methylation among fully differentiated tissues by using an array covering ~9% of the human genome. Major changes in the overall methylation were also found in colorectal cancer cell lines lacking one or two DNA methyltransferases.
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