Mutational landscape of RNA-binding proteins in human cancers

Yaseswini Neelamraju, Abel Gonzalez-Perez, Poornima Bhat-Nakshatri, Harikrishna Nakshatri, Sarath Chandra Janga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

29 Scopus citations


RNA Binding Proteins (RBPs) are a class of post-transcriptional regulatory molecules which are increasingly documented to be dysfunctional in cancer genomes. However, our current understanding of these alterations is limited. Here, we delineate the mutational landscape of ∼1300 RBPs in ∼6000 cancer genomes. Our analysis revealed that RBPs have an average of ∼3 mutations per Mb across 26 cancer types. We identified 281 RBPs to be enriched for mutations (GEMs) in at least one cancer type. GEM RBPs were found to undergo frequent frameshift and inframe deletions as well as missense, nonsense and silent mutations when compared to those that are not enriched for mutations. Functional analysis of these RBPs revealed the enrichment of pathways associated with apoptosis, splicing and translation. Using the OncodriveFM framework, we also identified more than 200 candidate driver RBPs that were found to accumulate functionally impactful mutations in at least one cancer. Expression levels of 15% of these driver RBPs exhibited significant difference, when transcriptome groups with and without deleterious mutations were compared. Functional interaction network of the driver RBPs revealed the enrichment of spliceosomal machinery, suggesting a plausible mechanism for tumorogenesis while network analysis of the protein interactions between RBPs unambiguously revealed the higher degree, betweenness and closeness centrality for driver RBPs compared to non-drivers. Analysis to reveal cancer-specific Ribonucleoprotein (RNP) mutational hotspots showed extensive rewiring even among common drivers between cancer types. Knockdown experiments on pan-cancer drivers such as SF3B1 and PRPF8 in breast cancer cell lines, revealed cancer subtype specific functions like selective stem cell features, indicating a plausible means for RBPs to mediate cancer-specific phenotypes. Hence, this study would form a foundation to uncover the contribution of the mutational spectrum of RBPs in dysregulating the post-transcriptional regulatory networks in different cancer types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-129
Number of pages15
JournalRNA Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2018


  • Somatic mutations
  • cancer genomics
  • gene regulatory networks
  • oncogenes
  • post-transcriptional regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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  • Cite this

    Neelamraju, Y., Gonzalez-Perez, A., Bhat-Nakshatri, P., Nakshatri, H., & Janga, S. C. (2018). Mutational landscape of RNA-binding proteins in human cancers. RNA Biology, 15(1), 115-129.