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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Using evolutionary constraint to define novel candidate driver genes in medulloblastoma

Roy, Ananya; Sakthikumar, Sharadha; Kozyrev, Sergey V.; Nordin, Jessika; Pensch, Raphaela; Makelainen, Suvi; Pettersson, Mats; Karlsson, Elinor K.; Lindblad-Toh, Kerstin; Forsberg-Nilsson, Karin


Current knowledge of cancer genomics remains biased against noncoding mutations. To systematically search for regulatory noncoding mutations, we assessed mutations in conserved positions in the genome under the assumption that these are more likely to be functional than mutations in positions with low conservation. To this end, we use whole-genome sequencing data from the International Cancer Genome Consortium and combined it with evolutionary constraint inferred from 240 mammals, to identify genes enriched in noncoding constraint mutations (NCCMs), mutations likely to be regulatory in nature. We compare medulloblastoma (MB), which is malignant, to pilocytic astrocytoma (PA), a primarily benign tumor, and find highly different NCCM frequencies between the two, in agreement with the fact that malignant cancers tend to have more mutations. In PA, a high NCCM frequency only affects the BRAF locus, which is the most commonly mutated gene in PA. In contrast, in MB, >500 genes have high levels of NCCMs. Intriguingly, several loci with NCCMs in MB are associated with different ages of onset, such as the HOXB cluster in young MB patients. In adult patients, NCCMs occurred in, e.g., the WASF-2/ AHDC1/FGR locus. One of these NCCMs led to increased expression of the SRC kinase FGR and augmented responsiveness of MB cells to dasatinib, a SRC kinase inhibitor. Our analysis thus points to different molecular pathways in different patient groups. These newly identified putative candidate driver mutations may aid in patient stratification in MB and could be valuable for future selection of personalized treatment options.


cancer; evolutionary constraint; regulatory mutations; medulloblastoma; pilocytic astrocytoma

Published in

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
2023, Volume: 120, number: 33, article number: e2300984120

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Medical Genetics

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