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We investigate 71 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) identified in meta-analytic studies of genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of breast cancer, the majority of which are located in intergenic or intronic regions. To explore regulatory impacts of these variants we conducted expression quantitative loci (eQTL) analyses on tissue samples from 376 invasive postmenopausal breast cancer cases in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) diagnosed from 1990-2004. Expression analysis was conducted on all formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue samples (and on 264 adjacent normal samples) using the Affymetrix Human Transcriptome Array. Significance and ranking of associations between tumor receptor status and expression variation was preserved between NHS FFPE and TCGA fresh-frozen sample sets (Spearman r = 0.85, p<10^-10 for 17 of the 21 Oncotype DX recurrence signature genes). At an FDR threshold of 10%, we identified 27 trans-eQTLs associated with expression variation in 217 distinct genes. SNP-gene associations can be explored using an open-source interactive browser distributed in a Bioconductor package. Using a new a procedure for testing hypotheses relating SNP content to expression patterns in gene sets, defined as molecular function pathways, we find that loci on 6q14 and 6q25 affect various gene sets and molecular pathways (FDR < 10%). Although the ultimate biological interpretation of the GWAS-identified variants remains to be uncovered, this study validates the utility of expression analysis of this FFPE expression set for more detailed integrative analyses.

Original publication

DOI

10.1371/journal.pone.0170181

Type

Journal article

Journal

PloS one

Publication Date

01/2017

Volume

12

Addresses

ArcBio, LLC, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America.

Keywords

Breast, Humans, Breast Neoplasms, Formaldehyde, Paraffin Embedding, Tissue Fixation, Health Surveys, Gene Expression Profiling, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Quantitative Trait Loci, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Nurses, United States, Female, Genome-Wide Association Study