Oncotarget 2017 Mar;8(11):17628-17642
Cancer Biology, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Tumor suppressor genes and their effector pathways have been identified for many dominantly heritable cancers, enabling efforts to intervene early in the course of disease. Our approach on the subject of early intervention was to investigate gene expression patterns of morphologically normal "one-hit" cells before they become hemizygous or homozygous for the inherited mutant gene which is usually required for tumor formation. Here, we studied histologically non-transformed renal epithelial cells from patients with inherited disorders that predispose to renal tumors, including von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease and Tuberous Sclerosis (TSC). As controls, we studied histologically normal cells from non-cancerous renal epithelium of patients with sporadic clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC). Gene expression analyses of VHLmut/wt or TSC1/2mut/wt versus wild-type (WT) cells revealed transcriptomic alterations previously implicated in the transition to precancerous renal lesions. For example, the gene expression changes in VHLmut/wt cells were consistent with activation of the hypoxia response, associated, in part, with the "Warburg effect". Knockdown of any remaining VHL mRNA using shRNA induced secondary expression changes, such as activation of NFκB and interferon pathways, that are fundamentally important in the development of RCC. We posit that this is a general pattern of hereditary cancer predisposition, wherein haploinsufficiency for VHL or TSC1/2, or potentially other tumor susceptibility genes, is sufficient to promote development of early lesions, while cancer results from inactivation of the remaining normal allele. The gene expression changes identified here are related to the metabolic basis of renal cancer and may constitute suitable targets for early intervention.