The somatic mutations in a cancer genome are the aggregate outcome of one or more mutational processes operative through the lifetime of the individual with cancer. Each mutational process leaves a characteristic mutational signature determined by the mechanisms of DNA damage and repair that constitute it. A role was recently proposed for the APOBEC family of cytidine deaminases in generating particular genome-wide mutational signatures and a signature of localized hypermutation called kataegis. A germline copy number polymorphism involving APOBEC3A and APOBEC3B, which effectively deletes APOBEC3B, has been associated with modestly increased risk of breast cancer. Here we show that breast cancers in carriers of the deletion show more mutations of the putative APOBEC-dependent genome-wide signatures than cancers in non-carriers. The results suggest that the APOBEC3A-APOBEC3B germline deletion allele confers cancer susceptibility through increased activity of APOBEC-dependent mutational processes, although the mechanism by which this increase in activity occurs remains unknown.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Genet

Publication Date





487 - 491


Breast Neoplasms, Cytidine Deaminase, DNA Copy Number Variations, Female, Genetic Markers, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Humans, Minor Histocompatibility Antigens, Mutagenesis, Proteins, Sequence Deletion