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Estrogen receptor 1 chromatin profiling in human breast tumors reveals high inter-patient heterogeneity with enrichment of risk SNPs and enhancer activity at most-conserved regions.

Genome Research 2024 May 7
Estrogen Receptor 1 (ESR1; also known as ERα, encoded by ESR1 gene) is the main driver and prime drug target in luminal breast cancer. ESR1 chromatin binding is extensively studied in cell lines and a limited number of human tumors, using consensi of peaks shared among samples. However, little is known about inter-tumor heterogeneity of ESR1 chromatin action, along with its biological implications. Here, we use a large set of ESR1 ChIP-seq data from 70 ESR1+ breast cancers to explore inter-patient heterogeneity in ESR1 DNA binding to reveal a striking inter-tumor heterogeneity of ESR1 action. Of note, commonly shared ESR1 sites show the highest estrogen-driven enhancer activity and are most engaged in long-range chromatin interactions. In addition, the most commonly shared ESR1-occupied enhancers are enriched for breast cancer risk SNP loci. We experimentally confirm SNVs to impact chromatin binding potential for ESR1 and its pioneer factor FOXA1. Finally, in the TCGA breast cancer cohort, we can confirm these variations to associate with differences in expression for the target gene. Cumulatively, we reveal a natural hierarchy of ESR1-chromatin interactions in breast cancers within a highly heterogeneous inter-tumor ESR1 landscape, with the most common shared regions being most active and affected by germline functional risk SNPs for breast cancer development.

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