Low frequency of ESRRA-C11orf20 fusion gene in ovarian carcinomas

PLoS Biol. 2014 Feb 4;12(2):e1001784. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001784. eCollection 2014 Feb.


The identification of recurrent gene fusions in common epithelial cancers--for example, TMPRSS2/ERG in prostate cancer and EML4/ALK in nonsmall cell lung carcinomas--has raised the question of whether fusion genes are pathogenetically important also in ovarian carcinomas. The first recurrent fusion transcript in serous ovarian carcinomas was reported by Salzman et al. in 2011, who used deep paired-end sequencing to detect the fusion gene ESRRA-C11orf20 in 10 out of 67 (15%) serous ovarian carcinomas examined, a finding that holds great promise for our understanding of ovarian tumorigenesis as well as, potentially, for new treatment strategies. We wanted to test how frequent the ESRRA/C11orf20 fusion is in ovarian carcinomas of all subtypes, and therefore examined a series of 230 ovarian carcinomas of which 197 were of the serous subtype and 163 of the 197 were of stages III and IV--that is, the very same carcinoma subset where the fusion transcript had been found. We performed PCR and high-throughput sequencing analyses in search of the fusion transcript. We used the same primers described previously for the detection of the fusion and the same primer combination, but found no ESRRA/C11orf20 fusion in our series. A synthetic DNA plasmid containing the reported ESRRA/C11orf20 fusion was included as a positive control for our PCR experiments. Data from high-throughput sequencing of 23 ovarian carcinomas were screened in search of alternative partner(s) for the ESRRA and/or C11orf20 gene, but none was found. We conclude that the frequency of the ESRRA/C11orf20 gene fusion in serous ovarian carcinomas of stages III and IV must be considerable less than that reported previously (0/163 in our experience compared with 10/67 in the previous study). At the very least, it seems clear that the said fusion cannot be a common pathogenetic event in this tumor type.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Female
  • Gene Frequency
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics*
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion / genetics*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Receptors, Estrogen / genetics*


  • CATSPERZ protein, human
  • ERRalpha estrogen-related receptor
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion
  • Receptors, Estrogen

Grant support

This work was supported by grants from the Norwegian Cancer Society (project number 33213), the South-East Norway Regional Health Authority (project number 10920), and the Inger and John Fredriksen Foundation for Ovarian Cancer Research (project number 334105). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.