Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Lecture 10: Collin Tokheim (Rachel Karchin Lab)

Hotspots in Cancer.
Missense mutations are perhaps the most difficult mutation type to interpret in human cancers. Truncating loss-of-function mutations and structural rearrangements generate major changes in the protein product of a gene, but a single missense mutation yields only a small change in protein chemistry. The impact of missense mutation on protein function, cellular behavior, cancer etiology, and progression may be negligible or profound, for reasons that are not yet well understood. Missense mutations are frequent in most cancer types, accounting for approximately 85% of the somatic mutations observed in solid human tumors, and the cancer genomics community has prioritized the task of identifying important missense mutations discovered in sequencing studies. Whole exome sequencing (WES) studies of cancer have created new opportunities to better understand the importance of missense mutations. This enormous collection of data now allows detection of patterns with power that was unheard of a few years ago.

Comparison of hotspot detection in the TSG FBXW7 in 1D and 3D [1].
In their recent work, Collin Tokheim from Johns Hopkins Biomedical Engineering and his colleagues used The Cancer Genome Atlas mutation data and identified 3D clusters of cancer mutations ("hotspot regions") at amino-acid-residue resolution in 91 genes, of which 56 are known cancer-associated genes. The hotspot regions identified by their method are smaller than a protein domain or protein– protein interface and in many cases can be linked precisely with functional features such as binding sites, active sites, and sites of experimentally characterized mutations. The hotspot regions are shown to be biologically relevant to cancer, and they discovered that there are characteristic differences between regions in the two types of driver genes, oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes (TSG). These differences include region size, mutational diversity, evolutionary conservation, and amino acid residue physiochemistry. For the first time, the research team quantifies why the great majority of well-known hotspot regions occur in oncogenes. Because hotspot regions in TSGs are larger, more heterogeneous than those in oncogenes, they are more difficult to detect using protein sequence alone and are likely to be underreported. The results indicate that protein structure–based 3D mutation clustering increases power to find hotspot regions, particularly in TSGs.

Good reads on the subject:
[1] Tokheim, Collin, et al. "Exome-scale discovery of hotspot mutation regions in human cancer using 3D protein structure." Cancer research (2016): canres-3190.
[2] Perdig√£o, Nelson, et al. "Unexpected features of the dark proteome." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112.52 (2015): 15898-15903.
[3] Kamburov, Atanas, et al. "Comprehensive assessment of cancer missense mutation clustering in protein structures." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112.40 (2015): E5486-E5495.
Collin Tokheim got his bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering at the University of Iowa. After a short stint working in an RNA genomics lab, he came to Hopkins to work on a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering. He currently works in Rachel Karchin's lab doing computational research applied to cancer genomics. Collin's current research focuses on how protein structures used on an exome-scale can inform which missense mutations are likely drivers of cancer.

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