Modeling tumor predisposingFHmutations in yeast: Effects on fumarase activity, growth phenotype and gene expression profile


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Abstract

Heterozygous mutations in the fumarase (FH) gene cause the tumor predisposition syndrome hereditary leiomyomatosis and renal cell cancer (MIM 605839). While most families segregate a benign phenotype of multiple leiomyomas, others display a phenotype with early-onset renal cancer and leiomyosarcoma. Modifier genes may play a role in this, but an alternative explanation is simple genotype–phenotype association.FHmutations predisposing to cancer appear to be truncating or in fully conserved amino acids, suggesting that mutations severely affectingFHactivity might predispose to malignancy. In the present study, we analyzed 2 conserved fumarase mutations in yeast. H153R has been described in 3 cancer predisposition families; whereas all 3 reported K187R families have displayed the benign phenotype. Examining H153R and K187R should clarify whether cancer-relatedFHmutations differ from their benign phenotype-associated counterparts. Yeast strains containing the 2 mutations, and knockout and wild type (WT) references, were created and the growth phenotypes studied on selected carbon sources to assess mitochondrial function. Additionally, Fum1 protein production and activity were measured, and the strains were subjected to transcriptional profiling. On nonfermentable lactate medium, the fumarase knockout strains did not grow, whereas the mutants showed no differences, as compared to WT yeast. Although both mutant strains produced fumarase, a considerable decrease in enzyme activity was seen in mutants with respect to WT. Transcription of the majority of Krebs cycle enzymes was downregulated in response to mutations in fumarase. In conclusion, both mutants displayed some, albeit greatly reduced, fumarase activity. This activity was sufficient to support normal growth on nonfermentable carbon source, unlike the deletion phenotype, demonstrating the significance of the residual activity. The findings support the hypothesis that modifier gene(s), rather than phenotype–genotype effects, display a major role in determining tumor phenotypes in families segregatingFHmutations.

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