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Landscape of G-quadruplex DNA structural regions in breast cancer.

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Hänsel-Hertsch, Robert 
Simeone, Angela 
Shea, Abigail 


Response and resistance to anticancer therapies vary due to intertumor and intratumor heterogeneity1. Here, we map differentially enriched G-quadruplex (G4) DNA structure-forming regions (∆G4Rs) in 22 breast cancer patient-derived tumor xenograft (PDTX) models. ∆G4Rs are associated with the promoters of highly amplified genes showing high expression, and with somatic single-nucleotide variants. Differences in ΔG4R landscapes reveal seven transcription factor programs across PDTXs. ∆G4R abundance and locations stratify PDTXs into at least three G4-based subtypes. ∆G4Rs in most PDTXs (14 of 22) were found to associate with more than one breast cancer subtype, which we also call an integrative cluster (IC)2. This suggests the frequent coexistence of multiple breast cancer states within a PDTX model, the majority of which display aggressive triple-negative IC10 gene activity. Short-term cultures of PDTX models with increased ∆G4R levels are more sensitive to small molecules targeting G4 DNA. Thus, G4 landscapes reveal additional IC-related intratumor heterogeneity in PDTX biopsies, improving breast cancer stratification and potentially identifying new treatment strategies.



Breast Neoplasms, DNA, Female, G-Quadruplexes, Gene Expression Regulation, Humans, Promoter Regions, Genetic, Transcription Factors

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Nat Genet

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC


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Cancer Research Uk (None)
Cancer Research UK (18618)
Cancer Research UK (CB4330)
Cancer Research UK (19836)
Wellcome Trust (209441/Z/17/Z)
The Caldas and Balasubramanian laboratories are supported by core funding from Cancer Research UK (C14303/A17197). The Balasubramanian laboratory is supported by Program grant funding from Cancer Research UK (C9681/A18618 and C9681/A29214) and a Wellcome Trust Investigator Award (209441/z/17/z). Prior to the revision of this study work by Dr. Robert Hänsel-Hertsch was supported by the Balasubramanian group, afterwards additionally supported by core funding of the Center for Molecular Medicine Cologne (CMMC).