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Pan-cancer transcriptomic analysis dissects immune and proliferative functions of APOBEC3 cytidine deaminases

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1178-1194
Number of pages17
JournalNucleic Acids Research
Issue number3
Early online date9 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 20 Feb 2019

King's Authors


APOBEC3 cytidine deaminases are largely known for their innate immune protection from viral infections. Recently, members of the family have been associated with a distinct mutational activity in some cancer types. We report a pan-tissue, pan-cancer analysis of RNA-seq data specific to the APOBEC3 genes in 8,951 tumours, 786 cancer cell lines and 6,119 normal tissues. By deconvolution of levels of different cell types in tumour admixtures, we demonstrate that APOBEC3B (A3B), the primary candidate as a cancer mutagen, shows little association with immune cell types compared to its paralogues. We present a pipeline called RESPECTEx (REconstituting SPecific Cell-Type Expression) and use it to deconvolute cell-type specific expression levels in a given cohort of tumour samples. We functionally annotate APOBEC3 co-expressing genes, and create an interactive visualization tool which ‘barcodes’ the functional enrichment ( These analyses reveal that A3B expression correlates with cell cycle and DNA repair genes, whereas the other APOBEC3 members display specificity for immune processes and immune cell populations. We offer molecular insights into the functions of individual APOBEC3 proteins in antiviral and proliferative contexts, and demonstrate the diversification this family of enzymes displays at the transcriptomic level, despite their high similarity in protein sequences and structures.

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