A Compendium of Mutational Signatures of Environmental Agents

Cell. 2019 May 2;177(4):821-836.e16. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2019.03.001. Epub 2019 Apr 11.


Whole-genome-sequencing (WGS) of human tumors has revealed distinct mutation patterns that hint at the causative origins of cancer. We examined mutational signatures in 324 WGS human-induced pluripotent stem cells exposed to 79 known or suspected environmental carcinogens. Forty-one yielded characteristic substitution mutational signatures. Some were similar to signatures found in human tumors. Additionally, six agents produced double-substitution signatures and eight produced indel signatures. Investigating mutation asymmetries across genome topography revealed fully functional mismatch and transcription-coupled repair pathways. DNA damage induced by environmental mutagens can be resolved by disparate repair and/or replicative pathways, resulting in an assortment of signature outcomes even for a single agent. This compendium of experimentally induced mutational signatures permits further exploration of roles of environmental agents in cancer etiology and underscores how human stem cell DNA is directly vulnerable to environmental agents. VIDEO ABSTRACT.

Keywords: DNA damage; Mutational signatures; carcinogens; environmental mutagens; mutagenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinogens, Environmental / adverse effects
  • Carcinogens, Environmental / classification*
  • DNA Damage / genetics
  • DNA Mutational Analysis / methods
  • DNA Repair / genetics
  • DNA Replication
  • Genetic Profile
  • Genome, Human / genetics
  • Humans
  • INDEL Mutation / genetics
  • Mutagenesis
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Whole Genome Sequencing / methods


  • Carcinogens, Environmental