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Robust diagnosis of Ewing sarcoma by immunohistochemical detection of super-enhancer-driven EWSR1-ETS targets

By Michaela C. Baldauf, Martin F. Orth, Marlene Dallmayer, Aruna Marchetto, Julia S. Gerke, Rebeca Alba Rubio, Merve M Kiran, Julian Musa, Maximilian M. L. Knott, Shunya Ohmura, Jing Li, Nusret Akpolat, Ayse N Akatli, Özlem Özen, Uta Dirksen, Wolfgang Hartmann, Enrique de Alava, Daniel Baumhoer, Giuseppina Sannino, Thomas Kirchner, Thomas G. P. Grünewald

Posted 02 Jul 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/158766 (published DOI: 10.18632/oncotarget.20098)

Ewing sarcoma is an undifferentiated bone-associated cancer. Although molecular detection of pathognomonic EWSR1-ETS fusions such as EWSR1-FLI1 enables definitive diagnosis, substantial confusion can arise if molecular diagnostics are unavailable. Diagnosis based solely on the conventional immunohistochemical marker CD99 is unreliable due to its abundant expression in morphological mimics. This study aimed to identify novel diagnostic immunohistochemical markers for Ewing sarcoma. We analyzed 768 expression microarrays representing 21 tumor entities including Ewing-like sarcomas to nominate candidate biomarkers. These candidates were validated by immunohistochemistry (IHC) in a tissue microarray (TMA) comprising 174 samples. Microarray, chromatin immunoprecipitation and sequencing (ChIP-Seq) data, and reporter assays were employed to analyze their EWSR1-FLI1-dependency. Our comparative expression analyses revealed that ATP1A1, BCL11B, and GLG1 constitute specific markers for Ewing sarcoma. Analysis of ChIP-Seq and microarray datasets showed that their expression is EWSR1-FLI1-dependent. This outcome corresponded to EWSR1-FLI1-binding to proximal super-enhancers, which showed high activity in reporter assays. Consistently, high ATP1A1, BCL11B, and GLG1 expressions were detected by IHC. Automated cut-off-finding and combination-testing in the TMA demonstrated that detection of high BCL11B and/or GLG1 expression is sufficient to reach 96% specificity for Ewing sarcoma. While 88% of tested Ewing-like sarcomas displayed strong CD99-immunoreactivity, none displayed combined high expression of BCL11B and GLG1. Collectively, we provide evidence that ATP1A1, BCL11B, and GLG1 are EWSR1-FLI1 targets, of which BCL11B and GLG1 offer a fast, simple and cost-efficient way to diagnose Ewing sarcoma by IHC. We anticipate that these markers will significantly reduce the number of misdiagnosed patients, and thus improve patient care.

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