The BRAF gene has been shown to be a major target for mutations in papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) (36-69%), which forms almost all of the over 2000 cases of thyroid carcinoma that have occurred in Chernobyl. BRAF is activated by point mutation, and were it to occur at a high frequency in Chernobyl-related tumors, it would challenge the dominant role of double-strand breaks in radiation-induced PTC. In a previous study, we detected the BRAF V600E mutation in 46% (23 of 50) of sporadic adult PTC. Using the same methodology, we have analyzed 34 post-Chernobyl PTC and detected RET/PTC rearrangements in 14 (41%) and BRAF mutations (V600E) in four (12%). These two alterations did not coexist in any PTCs. The mean age at exposure of patients with PTC showing BRAF mutation was higher than that of patients with tumors without BRAF mutation irrespective of their RET status. We have also analyzed 17 sporadic cases of childhood PTC and found that only one (6%) harbored the BRAF V600E mutation. We conclude that the frequency of BRAF mutations is significantly lower (P = 0.0008) in post-Chernobyl PTC than in adult sporadic PTC, whereas no significant difference was found between post-Chernobyl and sporadic childhood PTCs.
OBJECTIVE: Recently, a somatic point mutation of the BRAF gene (V599E) has been identified as the most common genetic event in papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) with a variable frequency (about 25-70%) in different series from USA, Japan, Portugal and Ukraine. DESIGN: In the present study, the genetic analysis of BRAF in an Italian cohort of 65 thyroid tumours with corresponding normal tissues and 21 thyroid benign disorders is reported. METHODS: For BRAF analysis, the somatic DNA was PCR amplified by means of specific intronic primers and PCR products were directly sequenced. Statistical analyses were obtained by means of Fisher's exact test. RESULTS: All mutations detected involved a T > A transversion at 1796 (V599E) and were heterozygous. Overall, BRAF(V599E) mutation was found in 18/56 (32.1%) PTCs. According to the histological type of the tumour, the mutation was present in 38.3% of cases of conventional PTC (18/47), in 0/6 follicular variant of PTC, in 0/3 oncocytic variant of PTC. No BRAF mutations were detected either in five follicular carcinomas, or in four poorly differentiated or undifferentiated cancers or in benign thyroid disorders. No statistically significant correlation of BRAF mutation with patient age and gender, with multicentricity of the tumour, with the lymphocytic infiltration of the tissue, with the stage and with the recurrence rate, was found. BRAF(V599E) tended to be associated, although not significantly, with a greater volume and extension of the tumour and with lymph-nodal metastases at surgery. CONCLUSIONS: In conclusion, the present study on the first Italian series of thyroid cancers shows a frequency of 38.3% of BRAF(V599E) in the classical variant of PTC, confirming the key role of this mutation in promoting tumourigenesis.
The peculiarities of alternative CD44 mRNA splicing in thyroid cancer tissue of children from radiocontaminated areas was investigated. CD44 gene expression in thyroid cancer tissues of children exposed to radiation resembled that in spontaneously emerged cancers. It was concluded that CD44 gene expression is not the primary target of radioactive irradiation. Probably, the CD44 mRNA splicing deregulation is the consequence of cancer.
Chromosome painting of chromosomes 1, 4 and 12 was performed on metaphase preparations of cultured thyroid cells to analyse the frequency of radiation-induced stable chromosome translocations in papillary thyroid carcinomas from 40 Belarussian children exposed to radioiodine from the Chernobyl accident, and from 31 reference case. As expected, we found the highest translocation frequencies in secondary thyroid tumours after radiotherapy, but there were also high frequencies in tumour tissues as well as in non-tumourous tissues from childhood papillary carcinoma samples from Belarus. Among the Belarussian tumours the cases from the Gomel region exhibited the highest frequency of translocations and five cases lie within the range of frequencies observed in secondary thyroid tumours after radiotherapy. The findings support the assumption that radiation was the principal cause of the tumours in Belarus, but they indicate also that only a minority of the Belarus cases, which have developed papillary carcinomas, were exposed to very high doses of radioiodine.
The RET/PTC3 oncogene is an activated form of the RET protooncogene, which is frequently rearranged in papillary thyroid carcinoma. RET/PTC3 results from a structural rearrangement between the ELE1 and the RET genes, and it has been observed in both sporadic and radiation-associated post-Chernobyl tumors. To understand the molecular basis that predisposes RET and ELE1 genes to be recurrent targets of "illegitimate" recombination, we examined the genomic regions containing the ELE1/RET breakpoints of six sporadic and three post-Chernobyl tumors in two papillary carcinomas of different origins. Our data indicated, in both genes, a clustering of the breakpoints in regions designated ELE1-bcr (1.8 kb) and RET-bcr (1.9 kb). Notably, in all sporadic tumors and in one post-Chernobyl tumor the ELE1/RET recombination corresponded with short sequences of homology (3-7 nt) between the two rearranging genes. In addition, we observed an interesting distribution of the post-Chernobyl breakpoints in ELE1-bcr located within an Alu element, or in between two close Alu elements, and always in A+T-rich regions.
BACKGROUND: Following exposure to radiation during the Chernobyl fallout tragedy, papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) increased significantly in individuals who were children at the time of the accident. We have used two high-throughput, whole genome platforms to analyze radiation-induced PTCs from pediatric patients from the Chernobyl region. METHODS: We performed comparative genomic hybridization using Affymetrix 50K Mapping arrays and gene expression profiling on 10 pediatric post-Chernobyl PTCs obtained from patients living in the region. We performed an overlay analysis of these two data sets. RESULTS: Many regions of copy number alterations (CNAs) were detected including novel regions that had never been associated with PTCs. Increases in copy numbers were consistently found on chromosomes 1p, 5p, 9q, 12q, 13q, 16p, 21q, and 22q. Deletions were observed less frequently and were mapped to 1q, 6q, 9q, 10q, 13q, 14q, 21q, and 22q. Gene expression analysis revealed that most of the altered genes were also perturbed in sporadic adult PTC; however, 141 gene expression changes were found to be unique to the post-Chernobyl tumors. The genes with the highest increases in expression that were novel to the pediatric post-Chernobyl tumors were TESC, PDZRN4, TRAa/TRDa, GABBR2, and CA12. The genes showing the largest expression decreases included PAPSS2, PDLIM3, BEXI, ANK2, SORBS2, and PPARGCIA. An overlay analysis of the gene expression and CNA profiles was then performed. This analysis identified genes showing both CNAs and concurrent gene expression alterations. Many of these are commonly seen in sporadic PTC such as SERPINA, COL8A, and PDX, while others were unique to the radiation-induced profiles including CAMK2N1, AK1, DHRS3, and PDE9A. CONCLUSIONS: This type of analysis allows an assessment of gene expression changes that are associated with a physical mechanism. These genes and chromosomal regions are potential markers for radiation-induced PTC.
A novel type of RET rearrangement, PTC5, was detected in papillary thyroid carcinomas of two patients exposed to radioactive fallout after Chernobyl. Reverse transcription-PCR and rapid amplification of 5'-cDNA ends revealed a fusion of the ret tyrosine kinase (TK) domain with a sequence identical to that described previously as ret-II. Ret-II is a transfection artifact in NIH3T3 cells and has not yet been detected in any human tumor. Overlapping sequences found in the expressed sequence tag databases enabled us to sequence the COOH terminus of the ret-fused gene 5 (RFG5). The combined data made it possible to assemble a full-length rfg5 protein sequence. Computer-assisted analysis of this sequence reveals four putative coiled-coil structures, possibly involved in dimerization, but no membrane-binding sequences. Northern blots show a ubiquitous RFG5 expression in various normal tissues, including the thyroid gland. In addition to the RFG5/RET, we also detected the reciprocal RET/RFG5 transcript in both tumor samples, suggesting that the rearrangement is based on a balanced reciprocal translocation. In agreement with other rearranged TKs, it is concluded that the transforming action of the new fusion protein rfg5/ret in thyroid tumors may be due to an activation of the ret TK by constitutive expression and dimerization potential of the 5'-fused rfg5 protein. Ret immunohistochemistry indicates that the fusion protein is expressed in all cells of PTC5 tumors, suggesting that RFG5/RET rearrangement is an early event in thyroid carcinogenesis.
Different significance of ret/PTC(1) and ret/PTC(3) rearrangements in thyroid carcinogenesis: lesson from two subgroups of patients with papillary thyroid carcinomas showing the highest incidence of ret/PTC activation.
Rearrangements of the ret oncogene were investigated in papillary thyroid carcinomas (PTC) from 51 Belarussian children with a mean age of 3 years at the time of the Chernobyl radiation accident. For comparison, 16 PTC from exposed Belarussian adults and 16 PTC from German patients without radiation history were included in the study. ret rearrangements were detected and specified by RT-PCR and direct sequencing using specific primers for ret/PTC1, 2 and 3. Only ret/PTC1, and no ret/PTC3, was found in the adult patients, with a frequency of 69% for the Belarussian cases, but of only 19% in the German patients. In contrast, 13 ret/PTC3 (25.5%) and 12 ret/PTC1 (23.5%) rearrangements were present in PTC from Belarussian children. Thus, our study reveals about a 1:1 ratio of ret/PTC3 and ret/PTC1, in contrast to earlier studies with lower numbers of cases and exhibiting a high predominance of ret/PTC3 (ratio about 3:1). A ratio (2.5:1) similar to that in earlier investigations (diagnosed 1991-94) was obtained for cases included in our study that were diagnosed in 1993/94. The present data suggest that ret/PTC3 may be typical for radiation-associated childhood PTC with a short latency period, whereas ret/PTC1 may be a marker for later-occurring PTC of radiation-exposed adults and children.