Background: The acquisition of an invasive phenotype by a tumor cell is a crucial step of malignant transformation. The underlying genetic mechanisms in gastric cancer (GC) are not well understood.
Methods: We performed whole-exome sequencing of 15 pairs of primary GC and their matched lymph node (LN) metastases (10 primary GCs with single matched LNs and 5 primary GCs with three LNs per case, respectively). Somatic alterations including single nucleotide variations, short insertions/deletions including locus-level microsatellite instability and copy number alterations were identified and compared between the primary and metastatic LN genomes.
Results: Mutation abundance was comparable between the primary GC and LN metastases, but the extent of mutation overlap or the mutation heterogeneity between primary and LN genomes varied substantially. Primary- or LN-specific mutations could be distinguished from common mutations in terms of mutation spectra and functional categories, suggesting that the mutation forces are not constant during gastric carcinogenesis. A spatial distribution revealed TP53 mutations as common mutations along with a number of region-specific mutations, such as primary-specific SMARCA4 and LN-specific CTNNB1 mutations. The subclonal architectures of common mutations were largely conserved between primary GC and LN metastatic genomes. The mutation-based phylogenetic analyses further showed that LN metastases may have arisen from homogeneous subclones of primary tumors.
Conclusions: The abundance and spatial distribution of mutations may provide clues on the evolutionary relationship between primary and matched LN genomes. Gene-level analyses further distinguished the early addicted cancer drivers such as TP53 mutations from late acquired region-specific mutations.
Keywords: Evolution; Gastric cancers; Lymph node metastasis; Mutations; Sequencing.