Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

The Role Of Fumarase (FH) In Tumorigenesis

Rainer Juhani Lehtonen

Doctoral dissertation, May 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine, Haartman Institute, Department of Medical Genetics.

In this study, a predisposing gene for a recently characterized cancer syndrome, hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell cancer (HLRCC), was identified and the role of the gene was investigated in other familial cancers and in nonsyndromic tumorigenesis. HLRCC is a dominantly inherited disorder predisposing predominantly to uterine and skin leiomyomas, and also to renal cell cancer and uterine leiomyosarcoma. The disease gene was recently localized in Finnish families to 1q42-q43 by a genome-wide linkage search. Independently in the UK, a clinically similar condition, multiple cutaneous and uterine leiomyomata (MCUL), was linked to the same chromosomal region, strongly suggesting that HLRCC and MCUL are actually a single syndrome. Linkage results were confirmed by detecting loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at the disease locus in most of the patients' tumors, suggesting that this predisposing gene acts as a tumor suppressor. Through detailed investigation by genotyping of microsatellite markers and haplotype construction in Finnish and UK HLRCC/MCUL families we were able to narrow the disease locus down to 1.6 Mb. Extensive mutation screening of known and predicted transcripts in the target region resulted in identification of the HLRCC predisposing gene, fumarase (fumarate hydratase, FH). FH is a key enzyme in energy metabolism, catalyzing fumarate to malate in the tricarboxylic acid cycle (TCAC) in mitochondria. Germline alterations in FH segregating with the disease were detected in 25 of 42 HLRCC/MCUL families including whole-gene deletions, truncating small deletions/insertions and nonsense mutations, as well as substitutions or deletions of highly conserved amino acids. Biallelic inactivation was detected in almost all studied tumors of HLRCC patients. Furthermore, FH enzyme activity was reduced in the patients' normal tissues and was completely or virtually absent from tumors. Based on these findings, we extensively demonstrated that mutations in FH underlie the HLRCC/MCUL syndrome. In our studies of other familial cancers, evidence for involvement of FH defects was not found in familial prostate and breast cancers.

To investigate the role of FH in sporadic tumorigenesis, we analyzed 652 lesions, including a series of 353 nonsyndromic counterparts of tumor types associated with HLRCC. Mutations in nonsyndromic tumors were rare and appeared to be limited to tumor types observed in the hereditary form of the disease. Biallelic inactivation of FH was detected in a uterine leiomyosarcoma, a cutaneous leiomyoma, a soft-tissue sarcoma, and in two uterine leiomyomas. In the uterine leiomyosarcoma and the cutaneous lesion FH mutations originated from the germline whereas the soft-tissue sarcoma harbored purely somatic changes. In uterine leiomyomas somatic mutations were detected in the two out of five tumors with LOH at the FH locus. Our findings demonstrate that FH inactivation is also involved in nonhereditary tumor development, and further support the hypothesis that FH acts as a tumor suppressor. The role of FH in predisposition to malignancies, renal cell carcinoma and leiomyosarcoma is important in the diagnosis and prevention of cancer among HLRCC patients. This study is of general clinical interest, because prior to our findings, little was known about the molecular genetics of uterine leiomyomas, the most common tumors of women.

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Last updated 03.05.2006

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