APA isoform diversity in triple negative breast cancers

Erdem, Murat
Çiçek, Esra
Can, Tolga
Erson Bensan, Ayşe Elif
Alternative polyadenylation (APA) plays a role in gene expression regulation generally by shortening of 3'UTRs and relieving microRNA-mediated repression. Therefore, APA is gaining increased attention as a potential mechanism to activate oncogenes. Owing to high proliferative indices of triple negative breast cancers (TNBCs), we hypothesized APA to cause 3'UTR length changes in this aggressive subgroup of breast cancers. Our probe-based meta-analysis approach identified 3'UTR length alterations where the significant majority was shortening events (70%, 113 of 165) of mostly proliferation-related transcripts in over 500 TNBC patients compared with normal breast tissue. Representative shortening events correlated with increased protein levels and relapse free survival of patients, suggesting functional significance of isoform variability. To begin addressing the underlying mechanisms of 3’UTR shortening, we turned to APA machinery proteins. We detected variable expression of APA machinery proteins in different breast cancer subtypes but CSTF2 (cleavage stimulation factor 2) has the most prominent overexpression in breast cancer cells. Therefore, among potential regulators of 3’UTR shortening, we further investigated the role of CSTF2 in proximal polyA signal selection. Because some of the TNBC patients are EGFR positive, we found EGF treatment to cause increased CSTF2 levels. Higher CSTF2 levels indeed correlated with further shortening of the 3'UTRs. Accordingly, RNAi-induced silencing of CSTF2 decreased the proliferative rate of cancer cells. Therefore, our integrated approach revealed a pattern of 3'UTR length changes in TNBC patients and a potential link between APA and EGF signaling. Further studies are underway to investigate the mechanistic link between EGF signaling and regulation of 3’UTR lengths.