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Mol Cancer. 2014 Apr 26;13:87. doi: 10.1186/1476-4598-13-87.

A 3'UTR polymorphism modulates mRNA stability of the oncogene and drug target Polo-like Kinase 1.

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Institute of Pharmacogenetics, University Hospital Essen, Hufelandstr, 55, 45147 Essen, Germany.



The Polo-like Kinase 1 (PLK1) protein regulates cell cycle progression and is overexpressed in many malignant tissues. Overexpression is associated with poor prognosis in several cancer entities, whereby expression of PLK1 shows high inter-individual variability. Although PLK1 is extensively studied, not much is known about the genetic variability of the PLK1 gene. The function of PLK1 and the expression of the corresponding gene could be influenced by genomic variations. Hence, we investigated the gene for functional polymorphisms. Such polymorphisms could be useful to investigate whether PLK1 alters the risk for and the course of cancer and they could have an impact on the response to PLK1 inhibitors.


The coding region, the 5' and 3'UTRs and the regulatory regions of PLK1 were systematically sequenced. We determined the allele frequencies and genotype distributions of putatively functional SNPs in 120 Caucasians and analyzed the linkage and haplotype structure using Haploview. The functional analysis included electrophoretic mobility shift assay (EMSA) for detected variants of the silencer and promoter regions and reporter assays for a 3'UTR polymorphism.


Four putatively functional polymorphisms were detected and further analyzed, one in the silencer region (rs57973275), one in the core promoter region (rs16972787), one in intron 3 (rs40076) and one polymorphism in the 3'untranslated region (3'UTR) of PLK1 (rs27770). Alleles of rs27770 display different secondary mRNA structures and showed a distinct allele-dependent difference in mRNA stability with a significantly higher reporter activity of the A allele (p < 0.01).


The present study provides evidence that at least one genomic variant of PLK1 has functional properties and influences expression of PLK1. This suggests polymorphisms of the PLK1 gene as an interesting target for further studies that might affect cancer risk, tumor progression as well as the response to PLK1 inhibitors.

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