Somatic NF1 inactivation is a frequent event in sporadic pheochromocytoma

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Germline mutations in the RET, SDHA, SDHAF2, SDHB, SDHC, SDHD, MAX, TMEM127, NF1 or VHL genes are identified in about 30% of patients with pheochromocytoma or paraganglioma and somatic mutations in RET, VHL or MAX genes are reported in 17% of sporadic tumors. In the present study, using mutation screening of the NF1 gene, mapping of chromosome aberrations by single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) array, microarray-based expression profiling and immunohistochemistry (IHC), we addressed the implication of NF1 somatic alterations in pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas. We studied 53 sporadic tumors, selected because of their classification with RET/NF1/TMEM127-related tumors by genome wide expression studies, as well as a second set of 11 independent tumors selected on their low individual levels of NF1 expression evaluated by microarray. Direct sequencing of the NF1 gene in tumor DNA identified the presence of an inactivating NF1 somatic mutation in 41% (25/61) of analyzed sporadic tumors, associated with loss of the wild-type allele in 84% (21/25) of cases. Gene expression signature of NF1-related tumors highlighted the downregulation of NF1 and the major overexpression of SOX9. Among the second set of 11 tumors, two sporadic tumors carried somatic mutations in NF1 as well as in another susceptibility gene. These new findings suggest that NF1 loss of function is a frequent event in the tumorigenesis of sporadic pheochromocytoma and strengthen the new concept of molecular-based targeted therapy for pheochromocytoma or paraganglioma.

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