An integrated genomic analysis of Tudor domain–containing proteins identifies PHD finger protein 20-like 1 (PHF20L1) as a candidate oncogene in breast cancer

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Abstract

Tudor domain–containing proteins (TDRDs), which recognize and bind to methyl-lysine/arginine residues on histones and non-histone proteins, play critical roles in regulating chromatin architecture, transcription, genomic stability, and RNA metabolism. Dysregulation of several TDRDs have been observed in various types of cancer. However, neither the genomic landscape nor clinical significance of TDRDs in breast cancer has been explored comprehensively. Here, we performed an integrated genomic and transcriptomic analysis of 41 TDRD genes in breast cancer (TCGA and METABRIC datasets) and identified associations among recurrent copy number alterations, gene expressions, clinicopathological features, and survival of patients. Among seven TDRDs that had the highest frequency (>10%) of gene amplification, the plant homeodomain finger protein 20-like 1 (PHF20L1) was the most commonly amplified (17.62%) TDRD gene in TCGA breast cancers. Different subtypes of breast cancer had different patterns of copy number and expression for each TDRD. Notably, amplification and overexpression of PHF20L1 were more prevalent in aggressive basal-like and Luminal B subtypes and were significantly associated with shorter survival of breast cancer patients. Furthermore, knockdown of PHF20L1 inhibited cell proliferation in PHF20L1-amplified breast cancer cell lines. PHF20L1 protein contains N-terminal Tudor and C-terminal plant homeodomain domains. Detailed characterization of PHF20L1 in breast cancer revealed that the Tudor domain likely plays a critical role in promoting cancer. Mechanistically, PHF20L1 might participate in regulating DNA methylation by stabilizing DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) protein in breast cancer. Thus, our results demonstrated the oncogenic potential of PHF20L1 and its association with poor prognostic parameters in breast cancer.

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