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A novel BRD4-NUT fusion in an undifferentiated sinonasal tumor highlights alternative splicing as a contributing oncogenic factor in NUT midline carcinoma

Stirnweiss, A., McCarthy, K., Oommen, J., Crook, M.L., Hardy, K., Kees, U.R., Wilton, S.D., Anazodo, A. and Beesley, A.H. (2015) A novel BRD4-NUT fusion in an undifferentiated sinonasal tumor highlights alternative splicing as a contributing oncogenic factor in NUT midline carcinoma. Oncogenesis, 4 (11). e174.

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NUT midline carcinoma (NMC) is a fatal cancer that arises in various tissues along the upper midline of the body. The defining molecular feature of NMC is a chromosomal translocation that joins (in the majority of cases) the nuclear testis gene NUT (NUTM1) to the bromodomain protein family member 4 (BRD4) and thereby creating a fusion oncogene that disrupts cellular differentiation and drives the disease. In this study, we report the case of an adolescent NMC patient presenting with severe facial pain, proptosis and visual impairment due to a mass arising from the ethmoid sinus that invaded the right orbit and frontal lobe. Treatment involved radical resection, including exenteration of the affected eye with the view to consolidate treatment with radiation therapy; however, the patient experienced rapid tumor progression and passed away 79 days post resection. Molecular analysis of the tumor tissue identified a novel in-frame BRD4-NUT transcript, with BRD4 exon 15 fused to the last 124 nucleotides of NUT exon 2 (BRD4-NUT ex15:ex2Δnt1–585). The partial deletion of NUT exon 2 was attributed to a mid-exonic genomic breakpoint and the subsequent activation of a cryptic splice site further downstream within the exon. Inhibition of the canonical 3′ acceptor splice site of NUT intron 1 in cell lines expressing the most common NMC fusion transcripts (PER-403, BRD4-NUT ex11:ex2; PER-624, BRD4-NUT ex15:ex2) induced alternative splicing from the same cryptic splice site as identified in the patient. Detection of low levels of an in-frame BRD4-NUT ex11:ex2Δnt1–585 transcript in PER-403 confirmed endogenous splicing from this alternative exon 2 splice site. Although further studies are necessary to assess the clinical relevance of the increasing number of variant fusions described in NMC, the findings presented in this case identify alternative splicing as a mechanism that contributes to this pathogenic complexity.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Centre for Comparative Genomics
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Copyright: © 2015 Macmillan Publishers Limited
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