Stratification of clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) genomes by gene-directed copy number alteration (CNA) analysis

PLoS One. 2017 May 9;12(5):e0176659. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0176659. eCollection 2017.


Tumorigenic processes are understood to be driven by epi-/genetic and genomic alterations from single point mutations to chromosomal alterations such as insertions and deletions of nucleotides up to gains and losses of large chromosomal fragments including products of chromosomal rearrangements e.g. fusion genes and proteins. Overall comparisons of copy number alterations (CNAs) presented in 48 clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) genomes resulted in ratios of gene losses versus gene gains between 26 ccRCC Fuhrman malignancy grades G1 (ratio 1.25) and 20 G3 (ratio 0.58). Gene losses and gains of 15762 CNA genes were mapped to 795 chromosomal cytoband loci including 280 KEGG pathways. CNAs were classified according to their contribution to Fuhrman tumour gradings G1 and G3. Gene gains and losses turned out to be highly structured processes in ccRCC genomes enabling the subclassification and stratification of ccRCC tumours in a genome-wide manner. CNAs of ccRCC seem to start with common tumour related gene losses flanked by CNAs specifying Fuhrman grade G1 losses and CNA gains favouring grade G3 tumours. The appearance of recurrent CNA signatures implies the presence of causal mechanisms most likely implicated in the pathogenesis and disease-outcome of ccRCC tumours distinguishing lower from higher malignant tumours. The diagnostic quality of initial 201 genes (108 genes supporting G1 and 93 genes G3 phenotypes) has been successfully validated on published Swiss data (GSE19949) leading to a restricted CNA gene set of 171 CNA genes of which 85 genes favour Fuhrman grade G1 and 86 genes Fuhrman grade G3. Regarding these gene sets overall survival decreased with the number of G3 related gene losses plus G3 related gene gains. CNA gene sets presented define an entry to a gene-directed and pathway-related functional understanding of ongoing copy number alterations within and between individual ccRCC tumours leading to CNA genes of prognostic and predictive value.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / surgery
  • DNA Copy Number Variations*
  • Genome*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / pathology
  • Kidney Neoplasms / surgery

Grant support

The work has been supported by the Research Executive Agency (IRSES grant: 269186) and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF grant BioChancePLUS-2: 0313692A).