Uterine leiomyomas are benign but affect the health of millions of women. A better understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved may provide clues to the prevention and treatment of these lesions.
We performed whole-genome sequencing and gene-expression profiling of 38 uterine leiomyomas and the corresponding myometrium from 30 women.
Identical variants observed in some separate tumor nodules suggested that these nodules have a common origin. Complex chromosomal rearrangements resembling chromothripsis were a common feature of leiomyomas. These rearrangements are best explained by a single event of multiple chromosomal breaks and random reassembly. The rearrangements created tissue-specific changes consistent with a role in the initiation of leiomyoma, such as translocations of the HMGA2 and RAD51B loci and aberrations at theCOL4A5–COL4A6 locus, and occurred in the presence of normalTP53 alleles. In some cases, separate events had occurred more than once in single tumor-cell lineages.
Chromosome shattering and reassembly resembling chromothripsis (a single genomic event that results in focal losses and rearrangements in multiple genomic regions) is a major cause of chromosomal abnormalities in uterine leiomyomas; we propose that tumorigenesis occurs when tissue-specific tumor-promoting changes are formed through these events. Chromothripsis has previously been associated with aggressive cancer; its common occurrence in leiomyomas suggests that it also has a role in the genesis and progression of benign tumors. We observed that multiple separate tumors could be seeded from a single lineage of uterine leiomyoma cells. (Funded by the Academy of Finland Center of Excellence program and others.)