Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have implicated the 1q22 gastric cancer risk locus in disease, but little is known about its underlying oncogenic functions. This study represents a systematic investigation of the biological significance and potential mechanism associated with the gastric cancer risk of SNP rs2075570(C>T) in 1q22. We identified two functional germline variations (rs2049805-C and rs2974931-G) in an active enhancer in a 64.8 kb high-linkage disequilibrium block of rs2075570. The enhancer upregulated ubiquitin associated protein 2 like (UBAP2L) gene expression over a 960 kb distance by chromatin looping. Gastric cancer tissues expressed significantly higher levels of UBAP2L than was observed in the matched noncancerous tissues, and the UBAP2L expression was negatively correlated with patient survival. Downregulation of UBAP2L inhibited the proliferation and invasion of human gastric cancer cells in vitro and in a xenograft mouse model. Notably, the two mutant variations significantly enforced the enhancer activity and UBAP2L expression. In conclusion, this study revealed two causal variations in the 1q22 region using tag-SNP rs2075570 as a genetic marker. These variations may affect the occurrence and progression of gastric cancer by reinforcing the expression of the 1q22-Enh enhancer-regulated UBAP2L target gene.
Our study provides an important clue of how noncoding germline variations contribute to gastric cancer, which gives a novel insight into understanding the genetic mechanism of gastric cancer.