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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

A comprehensive analysis of common genetic variation in prolactin (PRL) and PRL receptor (PRLR) genes in relation to plasma prolactin levels and breast cancer risk: the Multiethnic Cohort

Sulggi A Lee1*, Christopher A Haiman1, Noel P Burtt3, Loreall C Pooler1, Iona Cheng8, Laurence N Kolonel2, Malcolm C Pike1, David Altshuler3456, Joel N Hirschhorn367, Brian E Henderson1 and Daniel O Stram1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Los Angeles, CA, USA

2 Cancer Etiology Program, Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, University of Hawaii Honolulu, HI, USA

3 Broad Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA

4 Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

5 Department of Molecular Biology and Diabetes Unit, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA, USA

6 Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

7 Division of Endocrinology, Children's Hospital and Department of Pediatrics, Boston, MA, USA

8 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Institute of Human Genetics, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA

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BMC Medical Genetics 2007, 8:72  doi:10.1186/1471-2350-8-72

Published: 1 December 2007

Abstract

Background

Studies in animals and humans clearly indicate a role for prolactin (PRL) in breast epithelial proliferation, differentiation, and tumorigenesis. Prospective epidemiological studies have also shown that women with higher circulating PRL levels have an increase in risk of breast cancer, suggesting that variability in PRL may also be important in determining a woman's risk.

Methods

We evaluated genetic variation in the PRL and PRL receptor (PRLR) genes as predictors of plasma PRL levels and breast cancer risk among African-American, Native Hawaiian, Japanese-American, Latina, and White women in the Multiethnic Cohort Study (MEC). We selected single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from both the public (dbSNP) and private (Celera) databases to construct high density SNP maps that included up to 20 kilobases (kb) upstream of the transcription initiation site and 10 kb downstream of the last exon of each gene, for a total coverage of 59 kb in PRL and 210 kb in PRLR. We genotyped 80 SNPs in PRL and 173 SNPs in PRLR in a multiethnic panel of 349 unaffected subjects to characterize linkage disequilibrium (LD) and haplotype patterns. We sequenced the coding regions of PRL and PRLR in 95 advanced breast cancer cases (19 of each racial/ethnic group) to uncover putative functional variation. A total of 33 and 60 haplotype "tag" SNPs (tagSNPs) that allowed for high predictability (Rh2 ≥ 0.70) of the common haplotypes in PRL and PRLR, respectively, were then genotyped in a multiethnic breast cancer case-control study of 1,615 invasive breast cancer cases and 1,962 controls in the MEC. We also assessed the association of common genetic variation with circulating PRL levels in 362 postmenopausal controls without a history of hormone therapy use at blood draw. Because of the large number of comparisons being performed we used a relatively stringent type I error criteria (p < 0.0005) for evaluating the significance of any single association to correct for performing approximately 100 independent tests, close to the number of tagSNPs genotyped for both genes.

Results

We observed no significant associations between PRL and PRLR haplotypes or individual SNPs in relation to breast cancer risk. A nominally significant association was noted between prolactin levels and a tagSNP (tagSNP 44, rs2244502) in intron 1 of PRL. This SNP showed approximately a 50% increase in levels between minor allele homozygotes vs. major allele homozygotes. However, this association was not significant (p = 0.002) using our type I error criteria to correct for multiple testing, nor was this SNP associated with breast cancer risk (p = 0.58).

Conclusion

In this comprehensive analysis covering 59 kb of the PRL locus and 210 kb of the PRLR locus, we found no significant association between common variation in these candidate genes and breast cancer risk or plasma PRL levels. The LD characterization of PRL and PRLR in this multiethnic population provide a framework for studying these genes in relation to other disease outcomes that have been associated with PRL, as well as for larger studies of plasma PRL levels.