Tumor-suppressor genes that escape from X-inactivation contribute to cancer sex bias

Dunford A*, Weinstock DM, Savova V, Schumacher SE, Cleary JP, Yoda A, Sullivan TJ, Hess JM, Gimelbrant AA, Beroukhim R, Lawrence MS#, Getz G#, Lane AA#^
Nature Genetics 49 (1) :10-16 (2016)


There is a striking and unexplained male predominance across many cancer types. A subset of X chromosome (chrX) genes can escape X-inactivation, which would protect females from complete functional loss by a single mutation. To identify putative “Escape from X-Inactivation Tumor Suppressor” (EXITS) genes, we compared somatic alterations from >4100 cancers across 21 tumor types for sex bias. Six of 783 non-pseudoautosomal region (PAR) chrX genes (ATRX, CNKSR2, DDX3X, KDM5C, KDM6A, and MAGEC3) more frequently harbored loss-of-function mutations in males (based on false discovery rate <0.1), compared to zero of 18,055 autosomal and PAR genes (P<0.0001). Male-biased mutations in genes that escape X-inactivation were observed in combined analysis across many cancers and in several individual tumor types, suggesting a generalized phenomenon. We conclude that biallelic expression of EXITS genes in females explains a portion of the reduced cancer incidence compared to males across a variety of tumor types.

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