Recurrent Mutations of Chromatin-Remodeling Genes and Kinase Receptors in Pheochromocytomas and Paragangliomas

Clin Cancer Res. 2016 May 1;22(9):2301-10. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-15-1841. Epub 2015 Dec 23.


Purpose: Pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGL) are genetically heterogeneous tumors of neural crest origin, but the molecular basis of most PPGLs is unknown.

Experimental design: We performed exome or transcriptome sequencing of 43 samples from 41 patients. A validation set of 136 PPGLs was used for amplicon-specific resequencing. In addition, a subset of these tumors was subjected to microarray-based transcription, protein expression, and histone methylation analysis by Western blotting or immunohistochemistry. In vitro analysis of mutants was performed in cell lines.

Results: We detected mutations in chromatin-remodeling genes, including histone-methyltransferases, histone-demethylases, and histones in 11 samples from 8 patients (20%). In particular, we characterized a new cancer syndrome involving PPGLs and giant cell tumors of bone (GCT) caused by a postzygotic G34W mutation of the histone 3.3 gene, H3F3A Furthermore, mutations in kinase genes were detected in samples from 15 patients (37%). Among those, a novel germline kinase domain mutation of MERTK detected in a patient with PPGL and medullary thyroid carcinoma was found to activate signaling downstream of this receptor. Recurrent germline and somatic mutations were also detected in MET, including a familial case and sporadic PPGLs. Importantly, in each of these three genes, mutations were also detected in the validation group. In addition, a somatic oncogenic hotspot FGFR1 mutation was found in a sporadic tumor.

Conclusions: This study implicates chromatin-remodeling and kinase variants as frequent genetic events in PPGLs, many of which have no other known germline driver mutation. MERTK, MET, and H3F3A emerge as novel PPGL susceptibility genes. Clin Cancer Res; 22(9); 2301-10. ©2015 AACR.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / genetics
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / genetics
  • Child
  • Chromatin / genetics*
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly / genetics*
  • Exome / genetics
  • Female
  • Germ-Line Mutation / genetics*
  • Giant Cell Tumor of Bone / genetics
  • Histone Demethylases / genetics
  • Histone Methyltransferases
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase / genetics
  • Histones / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paraganglioma / genetics*
  • Pheochromocytoma / genetics*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / genetics
  • Young Adult
  • c-Mer Tyrosine Kinase / genetics


  • Chromatin
  • Histones
  • Histone Demethylases
  • Histone Methyltransferases
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase
  • c-Mer Tyrosine Kinase

Supplementary concepts

  • Thyroid cancer, medullary