The drug fluorouracil (5-FU) is a widely used antimetabolite chemotherapy in the treatment of colorectal cancer. The gene uridine monophosphate synthetase (UMPS) is thought to be primarily responsible for conversion of 5-FU to active anticancer metabolites in tumor cells. Mutation or aberrant expression of UMPS may contribute to 5-FU resistance during treatment. We undertook a characterization of UMPS mRNA isoform expression and sequence variation in 5-FU-resistant cell lines and drug-naive or-exposed primary and metastatic tumors. We observed reciprocal differential expression of two UMPS isoforms in a colorectal cancer cell line with acquired 5-FU resistance relative to the 5-FU-sensitive cell line from which it was derived. A novel isoform arising as a consequence of exon skipping was increased in abundance in resistant cells. The underlying mechanism responsible for this shift in isoform expression was determined to be a heterozygous splice site mutation acquired in the resistant cell line. We developed sequencing and expression assays to specifically detect alternative UMPS isoforms and used these to determine that UMPS was recurrently disrupted by mutations and aberrant splicing in additional 5-FU-resistant colorectal cancer cell lines and colorectal tumors. The observed mutations, aberrant splicing and downregulation of UMPS represent novel mechanisms for acquired 5-FU resistance in colorectal cancer.
- colorectal cancer
- fluorouracil resistance
- mRNA isoforms
- mutation analysis
- uridine monophosphate synthetase