Landscape of G-quadruplex DNA structural regions in breast cancer

Nat Genet. 2020 Sep;52(9):878-883. doi: 10.1038/s41588-020-0672-8. Epub 2020 Aug 3.


Response and resistance to anticancer therapies vary due to intertumor and intratumor heterogeneity1. Here, we map differentially enriched G-quadruplex (G4) DNA structure-forming regions (∆G4Rs) in 22 breast cancer patient-derived tumor xenograft (PDTX) models. ∆G4Rs are associated with the promoters of highly amplified genes showing high expression, and with somatic single-nucleotide variants. Differences in ΔG4R landscapes reveal seven transcription factor programs across PDTXs. ∆G4R abundance and locations stratify PDTXs into at least three G4-based subtypes. ∆G4Rs in most PDTXs (14 of 22) were found to associate with more than one breast cancer subtype, which we also call an integrative cluster (IC)2. This suggests the frequent coexistence of multiple breast cancer states within a PDTX model, the majority of which display aggressive triple-negative IC10 gene activity. Short-term cultures of PDTX models with increased ∆G4R levels are more sensitive to small molecules targeting G4 DNA. Thus, G4 landscapes reveal additional IC-related intratumor heterogeneity in PDTX biopsies, improving breast cancer stratification and potentially identifying new treatment strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • DNA / genetics*
  • Female
  • G-Quadruplexes
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Humans
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / genetics


  • Transcription Factors
  • DNA