BACKGROUND: Uveal melanoma (UM), a rare cancer of the eye, is characterized by initiating mutations in the genes G-protein subunit alpha Q (GNAQ), G-protein subunit alpha 11 (GNA11), cysteinyl leukotriene receptor 2 (CYSLTR2), and phospholipase C beta 4 (PLCB4) and by metastasis-promoting mutations in the genes splicing factor 3B1 (SF3B1), serine and arginine rich splicing factor 2 (SRSF2), and BRCA1-associated protein 1 (BAP1). Here, we tested the hypothesis that additional mutations, though occurring in only a few cases ("secondary drivers"), might influence tumor development.
METHODS: We analyzed all the 4125 mutations detected in exome sequencing datasets, comprising a total of 139 Ums, and tested the enrichment of secondary drivers in Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) pathways that also contained the initiating mutations. We searched for additional mutations in the putative secondary driver gene protein tyrosine kinase 2 beta (PTK2B) and we developed new mutational signatures that explain the mutational pattern observed in UM.
RESULTS: Secondary drivers were significantly enriched in KEGG pathways that also contained GNAQ and GNA11, such as the calcium-signaling pathway. Many of the secondary drivers were known cancer driver genes and were strongly associated with metastasis and survival. We identified additional mutations in PTK2B. Sparse dictionary learning allowed for the identification of mutational signatures specific for UM.
CONCLUSIONS: A considerable part of rare mutations that occur in addition to known driver mutations are likely to affect tumor development and progression.