Splicing imbalances in basal-like breast cancer underpin perturbation of cell surface and oncogenic pathways and are associated with patients' survival

Filipe Gracio, Brian Burford, Patrycja Gazinska, Anca Mera, Aisyah Mohd Noor, Pierfrancesco Marra, Cheryl Gillett, Anita Grigoriadis, Sarah Pinder, Andrew Tutt, Emanuele De Rinaldis*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Despite advancements in the use of transcriptional information to understand and classify breast cancers, the contribution of splicing to the establishment and progression of these tumours has only recently starting to emerge. Our work explores this lesser known landscape, with special focus on the basal-like breast cancer subtype where limited therapeutic opportunities and no prognostic biomarkers are currently available. Using ExonArray analysis of 176 breast cancers and 9 normal breast tissues we demonstrate that splicing levels significantly contribute to the diversity of breast cancer molecular subtypes and explain much of the differences compared with normal tissues. We identified pathways specifically affected by splicing imbalances whose perturbation would be hidden from a conventional gene-centric analysis of gene expression. We found that a large fraction of them involve cell-to-cell communication, extracellular matrix and transport, as well as oncogenic and immune-related pathways transduced by plasma membrane receptors. We identified 247 genes in which splicing imbalances are associated with clinical patients' outcome, whilst no association was detectable at the gene expression level. These include the signaling gene TGFBR1, the proto-oncogene MYB as well as many immune-related genes such as CCR7 and FCRL3, reinforcing evidence for a role of immune components in influencing breast cancer patients' prognosis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number40177
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2017

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