Background: Driver mutations are positively selected during the evolution of cancers. The relative frequency of a particular mutation within a gene is typically used as a criterion for identifying a driver mutation. However, driver mutations may occur with relative infrequency at a particular site, but cluster within a region of the gene. When analyzing across different cancers, particular mutation sites or mutations within a particular region of the gene may be of relatively low frequency in some cancers, but still provide selective growth advantage.
Results: This paper presents a method that allows rapid and easy visualization of mutation data sets and identification of potential gene mutation hotspot sites and/or regions. As an example, we identified hotspot regions in the NFE2L2 gene that are potentially functionally relevant in endometrial cancer, but would be missed using other analyses.
Conclusions: HotSpotter is a quick, easy-to-use visualization tool that delivers gene identities with associated mutation locations and frequencies overlaid upon a large cancer mutation reference set. This allows the user to identify potential driver mutations that are less frequent in a cancer or are localized in a hotspot region of relatively infrequent mutations.