Background: Among gynecologic cancers, ovarian cancer is the second most common and has the highest death rate. Cancer is a genetic disorder and arises due to the accumulation of somatic mutations in critical genes. An understanding of the genetic basis of ovarian cancer has implications both for early detection and for therapeutic intervention in this population of patients.
Methodology/principal findings: Fifteen ovarian cancer cell lines, commonly used for in vitro experiments, were screened for mutations using bidirectional direct sequencing in all coding regions of BRAF, MEK1 and MEK2. BRAF mutations were identified in four of the fifteen ovarian cancer cell lines studied. Together, these four cell lines contained four different BRAF mutations, two of which were novel. ES-2 had the common B-Raf p.V600E mutation in exon 15 and Hey contained an exon 11 missense mutation, p.G464E. The two novel B-Raf mutants identified were a 5 amino acid heterozygous deletion p.N486-P490del in OV90, and an exon 4 missense substitution p.Q201H in OVCAR 10. One of the cell lines, ES-2, contained a mutation in MEK1, specifically, a novel heterozygous missense substitution, p.D67N which resulted from a nt 199 G-->A transition. None of the cell lines contained coding region mutations in MEK2. Functional characterization of the MEK1 mutant p.D67N by transient transfection with subsequent Western blot analysis demonstrated increased ERK phosphorylation as compared to controls.
Conclusions/significance: In this study, we report novel BRAF mutations in exon 4 and exon 12 and also report the first mutation in MEK1 associated with human cancer. Functional data indicate the MEK1 mutation may confer alteration of activation through the MAPK pathway. The significance of these findings is that BRAF and MEK1/2 mutations may be more common than anticipated in ovarian cancer which could have important implications for treatment of patients with this disease and suggests potential new therapeutic avenues.