Somatic GNAS and USP8 mutations have been implicated in sporadic somatotrophinomas and corticotrophinomas, respectively. However, no genes are known to be recurrently mutated in sporadic prolactinomas. The prevalence of copy number variants (CNV), which is emerging as a mechanism of tumorigenesis in sporadic pituitary adenomas in general, is also unclear in prolactinomas. To characterize the genetic events underpinning sporadic prolactinomas, we performed whole exome sequencing of paired tumor and germline DNA from 12 prolactinoma patients. We observed recurrent large-scale CNV, most commonly in the form of copy number gains. We also identified sequence variants of interest in 15 genes. This included the DRD2, PRL, TMEM67, and MLH3 genes with plausible links to prolactinoma formation. Of the 15 genes of interest, CNV was seen at the gene locus in the corresponding tumor in 10 cases, and pituitary expression of eight genes was in the top 10% of tissues. However, none of our shortlisted somatic variants appeared to be classical driver mutations as no variant was found in more than one tumor. Future directions of research include mechanistic studies to investigate how CNV may contribute to prolactinoma formation, larger studies of relevant prolactinoma subsets according to clinical characteristics, and additional genetic investigations for aberrations not captured by whole exome sequencing.
Keywords: Copy number variation; Driver mutation; Loss of heterozygosity; Pituitary adenoma; Prolactinoma; Whole exome sequencing.