GPCRs show widespread differential mRNA expression and frequent mutation and copy number variation in solid tumors

by Krishna Sriram, Kevin Moyung, Ross Corriden, Hannah Carter, Paul A. Insel

G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the most widely targeted gene family for Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs. To assess possible roles for GPCRs in cancer, we analyzed The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) data for mRNA expression, mutations, and copy number variation (CNV) in 20 categories and 45 subtypes of solid tumors and quantified differential expression (DE) of GPCRs by comparing tumors against normal tissue from the Gene Tissue Expression Project (GTEx) database. GPCRs are overrepresented among coding genes with elevated expression in solid tumors. This analysis reveals that most tumor types differentially express >50 GPCRs, including many targets for approved drugs, hitherto largely unrecognized as targets of interest in cancer. GPCR mRNA signatures characterize specific tumor types and correlate with expression of cancer-related pathways. Tumor GPCR mRNA signatures have prognostic relevance for survival and correlate with expression of numerous cancer-related genes and pathways. GPCR expression in tumors is largely independent of staging, grading, metastasis, and/or driver mutations. GPCRs expressed in cancer cell lines largely parallel GPCR expression in tumors. Certain GPCRs are frequently mutated and appear to be hotspots, serving as bellwethers of accumulated genomic damage. CNV of GPCRs is common but does not generally correlate with mRNA expression. Our results suggest a previously underappreciated role for GPCRs in cancer, perhaps as functional oncogenes, biomarkers, surface antigens, and pharmacological targets.

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