Research Papers:

Clinical implications of chromatin accessibility in human cancers

Yuexin Liu _

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Oncotarget. 2020; 11:1666-1678. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.27584

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Yuexin Liu1

1 Department of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA

Correspondence to:

Yuexin Liu,email: yliu8@mdanderson.org

Keywords: ATAC-seq; chromatin accessibility; TCGA; promoter; survival

Received: September 16, 2019     Accepted: April 03, 2020     Published: May 05, 2020


Assay for transposase-accessible chromatin using sequencing (ATAC-seq) has not yet been widely used in cancer research. Clinical implications of chromatin accessibility assessed by ATAC-seq profiling in human cancers especially in a large patient cohort is largely unknown. In this study, we analyzed ATAC-seq data in 404 cancer patients from the Cancer Genome Atlas, representing the largest cancer patient cohort with ATAC-seq data, and correlated chromatin accessibility with patient demographics, tumor histology, molecular subtypes, and survival. Our results showed that chromatin accessibility varies from chromosome to chromosome, and is different in different genomic regions along the same chromosome. Chromatin accessibility especially on the X chromosome is strongly dependent on patient sex, but not much on patient age or tumor stage. Striking difference in chromatin accessibility is observed between lung adenocarcinoma and lung squamous cell carcinoma, the two most common histological subgroups in lung cancer. Furthermore, chromatin accessibility was different between basal and non-basal breast cancer. Finally, we identified prognostic peaks in the promoter regions that were significantly correlated with survival. In particular, we identified six peaks in the ESR1 gene promoter region in the ATAC-seq profiling and found that the peak about 247 bp away from the transcription start site was significantly associated with better survival. In conclusion, our study provides an alternative mechanism underlying tumor prognosis.

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