Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is one of the most aggressive cancers without effective therapy. To explore potential molecular targets in ESCC, we quantified the mutation spectrum and explored the relationship between gene mutation and clinicopathological characteristics and programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression.
Between 2015 and 2019, 29 surgically resected ESCC tissues and adjacent normal tissues from the Fourth Hospital of Hebei Medical University were subjected to targeted next-generation sequencing. The expression levels of PD-L1 were detected by immunohistochemistry. Mutational signatures were extracted from the mutation count matrix by using non-negative matrix factorization. The relationship between detected genomic alterations and clinicopathological characteristics and PD-L1 expression was estimated by Spearman rank correlation analysis.
The most frequently mutated gene was TP53 (96.6%, 28/29), followed by NOTCH1 (27.6%, 8/29), EP300 (17.2%, 5/29), and KMT2C (17.2%, 5/29). The most frequently copy number amplified and deleted genes were CCND1/FGF3/FGF4/FGF19 (41.4%, 12/29) and CDKN2A/2B (10.3%, 3/29). By quantifying the contribution of the mutational signatures to the mutation spectrum, we found that the contribution of signature 1, signature 2, signature 10, signature 12, signature 13, and signature 17 was relatively high. Further analysis revealed genetic variants associated with cell cycle, chromatin modification, Notch, and Janus kinase-signal transducer and activator of transcription signaling pathways, which may be key pathways in the development and progression of ESCC. Evaluation of PD-L1 expression in samples showed that 13.8% (4/29) of samples had tumor proportion score ≥1%. 17.2% (5/29) of patients had tumor mutation burden (TMB) above 10 mut/Mb. All samples exhibited microsatellite stability. TMB was significantly associated with lymph node metastasis (r = 0.468, P = 0.010), but not significantly associated with PD-L1 expression (r = 0.246, P = 0.198). There was no significant correlation between PD-L1 expression and detected gene mutations (all P > 0.05).
Our research initially constructed gene mutation profile related to surgically resected ESCC in high-incidence areas to explore the mechanism underlying ESCC development and potential therapeutic targets.

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