The RHO family of RAS-related GTPases in tumors may be activated by reduced levels of RHO GTPase accelerating proteins (GAPs). One common mechanism is decreased expression of one or more members of the Deleted in Liver Cancer (DLC) family of Rho-GAPs, which comprises three closely related genes (DLC1, DLC2, and DLC3) that are down-regulated in a wide range of malignancies. Here we have studied their comparative biological activity in cultured cells and used publicly available datasets to examine their mRNA expression patterns in normal and cancer tissues, and to explore their relationship to cancer phenotypes and survival outcomes. In The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) database, DLC1 expression predominated in normal lung, breast, and liver, but not in colorectum. Conversely, reduced DLC1 expression predominated in lung squamous cell carcinoma (LSC), lung adenocarcinoma (LAD), breast cancer, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), but not in colorectal cancer. Reduced DLC1 expression was frequently associated with promoter methylation in LSC and LAD, while DLC1 copy number loss was frequent in HCC. DLC1 expression was higher in TCGA LAD patients who remained cancer-free, while low DLC1 had a poorer prognosis than low DLC2 or low DLC3 in a more completely annotated database. The poorest prognosis was associated with low expression of both DLC1 and DLC2 (P < 0.0001). In cultured cells, the three genes induced a similar reduction of Rho-GTP and cell migration. We conclude that DLC1 is the predominant family member expressed in several normal tissues, and its expression is preferentially reduced in common cancers at these sites.
Keywords: DLC genes; RhoGAP; TCGA; bioinformatics; tumor suppressor.