ARTICLE ABSTRACTAs sequencing becomes more economical, we are identifying sequence variations in the population faster than ever. For disease-associated genes, it is imperative that we differentiate a sequence variant as either benign or pathogenic, such that the appropriate therapeutic interventions or surveillance can be implemented. PTEN is a frequently mutated tumor suppressor that has been linked to the PTEN hamartoma tumor syndrome. Although the domain structure of PTEN and the functional impact of a number of its most common tumor-linked mutations have been characterized, there is a lack of information about many recently identified clinical variants. To address this challenge, we developed a cell-based assay that utilizes a premalignant phenotype of normal mammary epithelial cells lacking PTEN. We measured the ability of PTEN variants to rescue the spheroid formation phenotype of PTEN−/− MCF10A cells maintained in suspension. As proof of concept, we functionalized 47 missense variants using this assay, only 19 of which have clear classifications in ClinVar. We utilized a machine learning model trained with annotated genotypic data to classify variants as benign or pathogenic based on our functional scores. Our model predicted with high accuracy that loss of PTEN function was indicative of pathogenicity. We also determined that the pathogenicity of certain variants may have arisen from reduced stability of the protein product. Overall, this assay outperformed computational predictions, was scalable, and had a short run time, serving as an ideal alternative for annotating the clinical significance of cancer-associated PTEN variants.
Combined three-dimensional tumor spheroid modeling and machine learning classifies PTEN missense variants, over 70% of which are currently listed as variants of uncertain significance.