Identification of a Novel MAN1A1-ROS1 Fusion Gene Through mRNA-based Screening for Tyrosine Kinase Gene Aberrations in a Patient with Leiomyosarcoma

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2021 Apr 1;479(4):838-852. doi: 10.1097/CORR.0000000000001548.


Background: Soft tissue sarcomas are a heterogeneous group of rare malignant tumors. Advanced soft tissue sarcomas have a poor prognosis, and effective systemic therapies have not been established. Tyrosine kinases are increasingly being used as therapeutic targets for a variety of cancers and soft tissue sarcomas. Although complex karyotype sarcomas typically tend to carry more potentially actionable genetic alterations than do translocation-associated sarcomas (fusion gene sarcomas), based on our database review, we found that leiomyosarcoma and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors have lower frequencies of potential targets than other nontranslocation soft tissue sarcomas. We theorized that both leiomyosarcoma and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors might be included in any unique translocations. Furthermore, if tyrosine kinase imbalances, especially fusion genes, occur in patients with leiomyosarcomas and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, tyrosine kinase inhibitors might be a drug development target for this sarcoma. In this study, we used a tyrosine kinase screening system that could detect an imbalance in mRNA between 5'- and 3'-sides in tyrosine kinase genes to identify potential novel therapeutic tyrosine kinase targets for soft tissue sarcomas.

Questions/purposes: (1) Are there novel therapeutic tyrosine kinase targets in tumors from patients with soft tissue sarcomas that are detectable using mRNA screening focusing on imbalance expressions between the 5' and 3' end of the kinase domain? (2) Can potential targets be verified by RNA sequencing and reverse transcription PCR (RT-PCR)? (3) Will potential fusion gene(s) transform cells in in vitro assays? (4) Will tumors in mice that have an identified fusion gene respond to treatment with a therapeutic drug directed at that target?

Methods: We used mRNA screening to look for novel tyrosine kinase targets that might be of therapeutic potential. Using functional assays, we verified whether the identified fusion genes would be good therapeutic candidates for soft tissue sarcomas. Additionally, using in vivo assays, we assessed whether suppressing the fusion's kinase activity has therapeutic potential. Study eligibility was based on a patient having high-grade spindle cell and nontranslocation sarcomas, including leiomyosarcoma, malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor, and high-grade myxofibrosarcoma. Between 2015 and 2019, of the 172 patients with soft tissue sarcomas treated with surgical resection at Juntendo University Hospital, 72 patients had high-grade nontranslocation sarcomas. The analysis was primarily for leiomyosarcoma and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, and there was a limitation of analysis size (reagent limitations) totaling 24 samples at the start of the study. We collected additional samples from a sample bank at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University to increase the number of sarcomas to study. Therefore, in this study, a total of 15 leiomyosarcoma samples, five malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors samples, and four high-grade myxofibrosarcoma samples were collected to achieve the sample size of 24 patients. To identify tyrosine kinase fusion genes, we designed a NanoString-based assay (NanoString Technologies Inc, Seattle, WA, USA) to query the expression balances regarding transcripts of 90 tyrosine kinases at two points: the 5' end of the kinase domain and within the kinase domain or 3' end of the kinase domain. The tumor's RNA was hybridized to the NanoString probes and analyzed for the expression ratios of outliers from the 3' to 5' end of the kinase domain. Presumed novel fusion events in these positive tumors that were defined by NanoString-based assays were confirmed tyrosine kinase fusion genes by RNA sequencing and confirmatory RT-PCR. Functional analyses consisting of in vitro and in vivo assays were also performed to elucidate whether the identified tyrosine kinase gene fusions were associated with oncogenic abilities and drug responses.

Results: We identified aberrant expression ratios regarding the 3' to 5' end of the kinase domain ratios in ROS1 transcripts in a leiomyosarcoma in a 90-year-old woman. A novel MAN1A1-ROS1 fusion gene was identified from her thigh tumor through RNA sequencing, which was confirmed with real-time PCR. In functional assays, MAN1A1-ROS1 rearrangement revealed strong transforming potential in 3T3 cells. Moreover, in an in vivo assay, crizotinib, a ROS1 inhibitor, markedly inhibited the growth of MAN1A1-ROS1 rearrangement-induced transformed cells in a dose-dependent manner.

Conclusion: We conducted tyrosine kinase screening to identify new therapeutic targets in soft tissue sarcomas. We found a novel MAN1A1-ROS1 fusion gene that may be a therapeutic target in patients with leiomyosarcoma. This study demonstrates that the mRNA screening system may aid in the development of useful therapeutic options for soft tissue sarcomas.

Clinical relevance: If novel tyrosine fusions such as MAN1A1-ROS1 fusion can be found in sarcomas from other patients, they could offer avenues for new molecular target therapies for sarcomas that currently do not have effective chemotherapeutic options. Therefore, the establishment of a screening system that includes both genomic and transcript analyses in the clinical setting is needed to verify our discoveries and take the developmental process of treatment to the next step.

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Crizotinib / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Fusion*
  • Humans
  • Leiomyosarcoma / drug therapy
  • Leiomyosarcoma / enzymology
  • Leiomyosarcoma / genetics*
  • Leiomyosarcoma / pathology
  • Male
  • Mannosidases / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Middle Aged
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sequence Analysis, RNA
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / pathology
  • Tumor Burden


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Crizotinib
  • Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • ROS1 protein, human
  • MAN1A1 protein, human
  • Mannosidases