Integrative identification of non-coding regulatory regions driving metastatic prostate cancer

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Large-scale sequencing efforts of thousands of tumor samples have been undertaken to understand the mutational landscape of the coding genome. However, the vast majority of germline and somatic variants occur within non-coding portions of the genome. These genomic regions do not directly encode for specific proteins, but can play key roles in cancer progression, for example by driving aberrant gene expression control. Here, we designed an integrative computational and experimental framework to identify recurrently mutated non-coding regulatory regions that drive tumor progression. Application of this approach to whole-genome sequencing (WGS) data from a large cohort of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) revealed a large set of recurrently mutated regions. We used (i) in silico prioritization of functional non-coding mutations, (ii) massively parallel reporter assays, and (iii) in vivo CRISPR-interference (CRISPRi) screens in xenografted mice to systematically identify and validate driver regulatory regions that drive mCRPC. We discovered that one of these enhancer regions, GH22I030351, acts on a bidirectional promoter to simultaneously modulate expression of U2-associated splicing factor SF3A1 and chromosomal protein CCDC157. We found that both SF3A1 and CCDC157 are promoters of tumor growth in xenograft models of prostate cancer. We nominated a number of transcription factors, including SOX6, to be responsible for higher expression of SF3A1 and CCDC157. Collectively, we have established and confirmed an integrative computational and experimental approach that enables the systematic detection of non-coding regulatory regions that drive the progression of human cancers.

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