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Open Access Research article

PSPHL and breast cancer in African American women: causative gene or population stratification?

Seth Rummel1, Cayla E Penatzer1, Craig D Shriver2 and Rachel E Ellsworth3*

Author Affiliations

1 Clinical Breast Care Project, Windber Research Institute, 620 Seventh Street, Windber, PA 15963, USA

2 Clinical Breast Care Project, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, 8901 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20852, USA

3 Clinical Breast Care Project, Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, 620 Seventh Street, Windber, PA 15963, USA

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BMC Genetics 2014, 15:38  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-15-38

Published: 20 March 2014



Phophoserine phosphatase-like (PSPHL) is expressed at significantly higher levels in breast tumors from African American women (AAW) compared to Caucasian women (CW). How overexpression of PSPHL contributes to outcome disparities is unclear, thus, molecular mechanisms driving expression differences between populations were evaluated.


PCR was used to detect deletion of 30-Kb of chromosome 7p11 including the first three exons of PSPHL using genomic DNA from AAW (199 with invasive breast cancer, 360 controls) and CW (invasive breast cancer =589, 364 controls). Gene expression levels were evaluated by qRT-PCR using RNA isolated from tumor tissue and blood. Data were analyzed using chi-square analysis and Mann–Whitney U-tests; P < 0.05 was used to define significance. Gene expression levels correlated with deletion status: patients homozygous for the deletion had no detectable expression of PSPHL, while heterozygous had expression levels 2.1-fold lower than those homozygous for retention of PSPHL. Homozygous deletion of PSPHL was detected in 61% of CW compared to 6% of AAW with invasive breast cancer (P < 0.0001); genotype frequencies did not differ significantly between AAW with and without breast cancer (P = 0.211).


Thus, deletion of 7p11, which prevents expression of PSPHL, is significantly higher in CW compared to AAW, suggesting that this 30-kb deletion and subsequent disruption of PSPHL may be a derived trait in Caucasians. The similar frequency of the deletion allele in AAW with and without invasive breast cancer suggests that this difference represent population stratification, and does not contribute to cancer disparities.

PSPHL; African American; Cancer disparity; Population stratification