Analysis of polymorphisms and haplotype structure of the human thymidylate synthase genetic region: A tool for pharmacogenetic studies

Soma Ghosh, M. Zulfiquer Hossain, Michael Borges, Michael G. Goggins, Roxann G. Ingersoll, James R. Eshleman, Alison P. Klein, Scott E. Kern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


5-fluorouracil (5FU), a widely used chemotherapeutic drug, inhibits the DNA replicative enzyme, thymidylate synthase (Tyms). Prior studies implicated a VNTR (variable numbers of tandem repeats) polymorphism in the 5′-untranslated region (5′-UTR) of the TYMS gene as a determinant of Tyms expression in tumors and normal tissues and proposed that these VNTR genotypes could help decide fluoropyrimidine dosing. Clinical associations between 5FU-related toxicity and the TYMS VNTR were reported, however, results were inconsistent, suggesting that additional genetic variation in the TYMS gene might influence Tyms expression. We thus conducted a detailed genetic analysis of this region, defining new polymorphisms in this gene including mononucleotide (poly A:T) repeats and novel single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) flanking the VNTR in the TYMS genetic region. Our haplotype analysis of this region used data from both established and novel genetic variants and found nine SNP haplotypes accounting for more than 90% of the studied population. We observed non-exclusive relationships between the VNTR and adjacent SNP haplotypes, such that each type of VNTR commonly occurred on several haplotype backgrounds. Our results confirmed the expectation that the VNTR alleles exhibit homoplasy and lack the common ancestry required for a reliable marker of a linked adjacent locus that might govern toxicity. We propose that it may be necessary in a clinical trial to assay multiple types of genetic polymorphisms in the TYMS region to meaningfully model linkage of genetic markers to 5FU-related toxicity. The presence of multiple long (up to 26 nt), polymorphic monothymidine repeats in the promoter region of the sole human thymidylate synthetic enzyme is intriguing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere34426
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 5 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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