Essential genes shape cancer genomes through linear limitation of homozygous deletions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The landscape of somatic acquired deletions in cancer cells is shaped by positive and negative selection. Recurrent deletions typically target tumor suppressor, leading to positive selection. Simultaneously, loss of a nearby essential gene can lead to negative selection, and introduce latent vulnerabilities specific to cancer cells. Here we show that, under basic assumptions on positive and negative selection, deletion limitation gives rise to a statistical pattern where the frequency of homozygous deletions decreases approximately linearly between the deletion target gene and the nearest essential genes. Using DNA copy number data from 9,744 human cancer specimens, we demonstrate that linear deletion limitation exists and exposes deletion-limiting genes for seven known deletion targets (CDKN2A, RB1, PTEN, MAP2K4, NF1, SMAD4, and LINC00290). Downstream analysis of pooled CRISPR/Cas9 data provide further evidence of essentiality. Our results provide further insight into how the deletion landscape is shaped and identify potentially targetable vulnerabilities.


External organisations
  • Broad Institute
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cancer and Oncology
  • Medical Genetics
Original languageEnglish
Article number262
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch