Background: Open chromatin is associated with gene transcription. Previous studies have shown that the density of mutations in open chromatin regions is lower than that in flanking regions because of the higher accessibility of DNA repair machinery. However, in several cancer types, open chromatin regions show an increased local density of mutations in activated regulatory regions. Although the mutation distribution within open chromatin regions in cancer cells has been investigated, only few studies have focused on their functional implications in cancer. To reveal the impact of highly mutated open chromatin regions on cancer, we investigated the association between mutations in open chromatin regions and their possible functions.
Methods: Whole-genome sequencing data of 18 cancer types were downloaded from the PanCancer Analysis of Whole Genomes and Catalog of Somatic Mutations in Cancer. We quantified the mutations located in open chromatin regions defined by The Cancer Genome Atlas and classified open chromatin regions into three categories based on the number of mutations. Then, we investigated the chromatin state, amplification, and possible target genes of the open chromatin regions with a high number of mutations. We also analyzed the association between the number of mutations in open chromatin regions and patient prognosis.
Results: In some cancer types, the proportion of promoter or enhancer chromatin state in open chromatin regions with a high number of mutations was significantly higher than that in the regions with a low number of mutations. The possible target genes of open chromatin regions with a high number of mutations were more strongly associated with cancer than those of other open chromatin regions. Moreover, a high number of mutations in open chromatin regions was significantly associated with a poor prognosis in some cancer types.
Conclusions: These results suggest that highly mutated open chromatin regions play an important role in cancer pathogenesis and can be effectively used to predict patient prognosis.
Keywords: TCGA; bioinformatics; cancer genetics; genomics; medical genetics.
© 2022 The Authors. Cancer Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.