Genomic instability drives tumorigenesis, but how it is initiated in sporadic neoplasias is unknown. In early preneoplasias, alterations at chromosome fragile sites arise due to DNA replication stress. A frequent, perhaps earliest, genetic alteration in preneoplasias is deletion within the fragile FRA3B/FHIT locus, leading to loss of Fhit protein expression. Because common chromosome fragile sites are exquisitely sensitive to replication stress, it has been proposed that their clonal alterations in cancer cells are due to stress sensitivity rather than to a selective advantage imparted by loss of expression of fragile gene products. Here, we show in normal, transformed, and cancer-derived cell lines that Fhit-depletion causes replication stress-induced DNA double-strand breaks. Using DNA combing, we observed a defect in replication fork progression in Fhit-deficient cells that stemmed primarily from fork stalling and collapse. The likely mechanism for the role of Fhit in replication fork progression is through regulation of Thymidine kinase 1 expression and thymidine triphosphate pool levels; notably, restoration of nucleotide balance rescued DNA replication defects and suppressed DNA breakage in Fhit-deficient cells. Depletion of Fhit did not activate the DNA damage response nor cause cell cycle arrest, allowing continued cell proliferation and ongoing chromosomal instability. This finding was in accord with in vivo studies, as Fhit knockout mouse tissue showed no evidence of cell cycle arrest or senescence yet exhibited numerous somatic DNA copy number aberrations at replication stress-sensitive loci. Furthermore, cells established from Fhit knockout tissue showed rapid immortalization and selection of DNA deletions and amplifications, including amplification of the Mdm2 gene, suggesting that Fhit loss-induced genome instability facilitates transformation. We propose that loss of Fhit expression in precancerous lesions is the first step in the initiation of genomic instability, linking alterations at common fragile sites to the origin of genome instability.
Normal cells have robust mechanisms to maintain the proper sequence of their DNA; in cancer cells these mechanisms are compromised, resulting in complex changes in the DNA of tumors. How this genome instability begins has not been defined, except in cases of familial cancers, which often have mutations in genes called “caretaker” genes, necessary to preserve DNA stability. We have defined a mechanism for genome instability in non-familial tumors that occur sporadically in the population. Certain fragile regions of our DNA are more difficult to duplicate during cell division and are prone to breakage. A fragile region, FRA3B, lies within the FHIT gene, and deletions within FRA3B are common in precancer cells, causing loss of Fhit protein expression. We find that loss of Fhit protein causes defective DNA replication, leading to further DNA breaks. Cells that continue DNA replication in the absence of Fhit develop numerous chromosomal aberrations. Importantly, cells established from tissues of mice that are missing Fhit undergo selection for increasing DNA alterations that can promote immortality, a cancer cell hallmark. Thus, loss of Fhit expression in precancer cells is the first step in the initiation of genomic instability and facilitates cancer development.
The notion that targeted drugs can unplug gain-of-function tumor pathways has revitalized pharmaceutical research, but the survival benefits of this strategy have so far proven modest. A weakness of oncogene-blocking approaches is that they do not address the problem of cancer progression as selected by the recessive phenotypes of genetic instability and apoptotic resistance which in turn arise from loss-of-function – i.e., undruggable – defects of caretaker (e.g., BRCA, MLH1) or gatekeeper (e.g., TP53, PTEN) suppressor genes. Genetic instability ensures that rapid cell kill is balanced by rapid selection for apoptotic resistance and hence for metastasis, casting doubt on the assumption that cytotoxicity (“response”) remains the best way to identify survival-enhancing drugs. In the absence of gene therapy, it is proposed here that caretaker-defective (high-instability) tumors may be best treated with low-lethality drugs inducing replicative (RAS-RAF-ERK) arrest or dormancy, causing “stable disease” rather than tumorilytic remission. Gatekeeper-defective (death-resistant) tumors, on the other hand, may be best managed by combining survival (PI3K-AKT-mTOR) pathway blockade with metronomic or sequential pro-apoptotic drugs.
tumor suppressor genes; genetic instability; apoptosis; carcinogenesis; drug development
Albeit genetically highly heterogeneous, muscular dystrophies (MDs) share a convergent pathology leading to muscle wasting accompanied by proliferation of fibrous and fatty tissue, suggesting a common MD–pathomechanism. Here we show that mutations in muscular dystrophy genes (Dmd, Dysf, Capn3, Large) lead to the spontaneous formation of skeletal muscle-derived malignant tumors in mice, presenting as mixed rhabdomyo-, fibro-, and liposarcomas. Primary MD–gene defects and strain background strongly influence sarcoma incidence, latency, localization, and gender prevalence. Combined loss of dystrophin and dysferlin, as well as dystrophin and calpain-3, leads to accelerated tumor formation. Irrespective of the primary gene defects, all MD sarcomas share non-random genomic alterations including frequent losses of tumor suppressors (Cdkn2a, Nf1), amplification of oncogenes (Met, Jun), recurrent duplications of whole chromosomes 8 and 15, and DNA damage. Remarkably, these sarcoma-specific genetic lesions are already regularly present in skeletal muscles in aged MD mice even prior to sarcoma development. Accordingly, we show also that skeletal muscle from human muscular dystrophy patients is affected by gross genomic instability, represented by DNA double-strand breaks and age-related accumulation of aneusomies. These novel aspects of molecular pathologies common to muscular dystrophies and tumor biology will potentially influence the strategies to combat these diseases.
All kinds of muscular dystrophies (MDs) are characterized by progressive muscle wasting due to life-long proliferation of precursor cells of myo- (muscle), fibro- (connective tissue), and lipogenic (fat) origin. Despite discovery of many MD genes over the past 25 years, MDs still represent debilitating, incurable diseases, which frequently lead to premature death. Thus, it is imperative to gain novel insights into the underlying MD pathomechanisms. Here, we show that different mouse models for the most common human MDs frequently develop skeletal musculature-associated tumors, presenting as complex sarcomas, consisting of myo-, lipo-, and fibrogenic compartments. Collectively, these tumors are characterized by profound genomic instability such as DNA damage, recurring mutations in cancer genes, and aberrant chromosome copy numbers. We also demonstrate the presence of these cancer-related aberrations in dystrophic muscles from MD mice prior to formation of visible sarcomas. Moreover, we discovered corresponding genomic lesions also in skeletal muscles from human MD patients, as well as stem cells cultured thereof, and show that genomic instability precedes muscle degeneration in MDs. We thus propose that cancer-like genomic instability represents a novel, unifying pathomechanism underlying the entire group of genetically distinct MDs, which will hopefully open new therapeutic avenues.
Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is an oncogenic herpesvirus associated with multiple AIDS-related malignancies. Like other herpesviruses, KSHV has a biphasic life cycle and both the lytic and latent phases are required for tumorigenesis. Evidence suggests that KSHV lytic replication can cause genome instability in KSHV-infected cells, although no mechanism has thus far been described. A surprising link has recently been suggested between mRNA export, genome instability and cancer development. Notably, aberrations in the cellular transcription and export complex (hTREX) proteins have been identified in high-grade tumours and these defects contribute to genome instability. We have previously shown that the lytically expressed KSHV ORF57 protein interacts with the complete hTREX complex; therefore, we investigated the possible intriguing link between ORF57, hTREX and KSHV-induced genome instability. Herein, we show that lytically active KSHV infected cells induce a DNA damage response and, importantly, we demonstrate directly that this is due to DNA strand breaks. Furthermore, we show that sequestration of the hTREX complex by the KSHV ORF57 protein leads to this double strand break response and significant DNA damage. Moreover, we describe a novel mechanism showing that the genetic instability observed is a consequence of R-loop formation. Importantly, the link between hTREX sequestration and DNA damage may be a common feature in herpesvirus infection, as a similar phenotype was observed with the herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) ICP27 protein. Our data provide a model of R-loop induced DNA damage in KSHV infected cells and describes a novel system for studying genome instability caused by aberrant hTREX.
The hallmarks of cancer comprise the essential elements that permit the formation and development of human tumours. Genome instability is an enabling characteristic that allows the progression of tumorigenesis through genetic mutation and therefore, understanding the molecular causes of genome instability in all cancers is essential for development of therapeutics. The Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) is an important human pathogen that causes multiple AIDS-related cancers. Recent studies have shown that during KSHV infection, cells show an increase in a double-strand DNA break marker, signifying a severe form of genome instability. Herein, we show that KSHV infection does cause DNA strand breaks. Moreover, we describe a novel molecular mechanism for genome instability involving the KSHV ORF57 protein interacting with the mRNA export complex, hTREX. We demonstrate that over-expression of ORF57 results in the formation of RNA:DNA hybrids, or R-loops, that lead to an increase in genome instability. DNA strand breaks have been previously reported in herpes simplex, cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr virus infected cells. Therefore, as this work describes for the first time the mechanism of R-loop induced genome instability involving a conserved herpesvirus protein, it may have far-reaching implications for other viral RNA export factors.
Theodore Boveri, eminent German pathologist, observed aneuploidy in cancer cells more than a century ago and suggested that cancer cells derived from a single progenitor cell that acquires the potential for uncontrolled continuous proliferation. Currently, it is well known that aneuploidy is observed in virtually all cancers. Gain and loss of chromosomal material in neoplastic cells is considered to be a process of diversification that leads to survival of the fittest clones. According to Darwin’s theory of evolution, the environment determines the grounds upon which selection takes place and the genetic characteristics necessary for better adaptation. This concept can be applied to the carcinogenesis process, connecting the ability of cancer cells to adapt to different environments and to resist chemotherapy, genomic instability being the driving force of tumor development and progression. What causes this genome instability? Mutations have been recognized for a long time as the major source of genome instability in cancer cells. Nevertheless, an alternative hypothesis suggests that aneuploidy is a primary cause of genome instability rather than solely a simple consequence of the malignant transformation process. Whether genome instability results from mutations or from aneuploidy is not a matter of discussion in this review. It is most likely both phenomena are intimately related; however, we will focus on the mechanisms involved in aneuploidy formation and more specifically on the epigenetic origin of aneuploid cells. Epigenetic inheritance is defined as cellular information—other than the DNA sequence itself—that is heritable during cell division. DNA methylation and histone modifications comprise two of the main epigenetic modifications that are important for many physiological and pathological conditions, including cancer. Aberrant DNA methylation is the most common molecular cancer-cell lesion, even more frequent than gene mutations; tumor suppressor gene silencing by CpG island promoter hypermethylation is perhaps the most frequent epigenetic modification in cancer cells. Epigenetic characteristics of cells may be modified by several factors including environmental exposure, certain nutrient deficiencies, radiation, etc. Some of these alterations have been correlated with the formation of aneuploid cells in vivo. A growing body of evidence suggests that aneuploidy is produced and caused by chromosomal instability. We propose and support in this manuscript that not only genetics but also epigenetics, contribute in a major fashion to aneuploid cell formation.
Aneuploidy; cancer; epigenetics; chromosome instability.
Genomic DNA copy number aberrations are frequent in solid tumors, although the underlying causes of chromosomal instability in tumors remain obscure. Genes likely to have genomic instability phenotypes when mutated (e.g. those involved in mitosis, replication, repair, and telomeres) are rarely mutated in chromosomally unstable sporadic tumors, even though such mutations are associated with some heritable cancer prone syndromes.
We applied array comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) to the analysis of breast tumors. The variation in the levels of genomic instability amongst tumors prompted us to investigate whether alterations in processes/genes involved in maintenance and/or manipulation of the genome were associated with particular types of genomic instability.
We discriminated three breast tumor subtypes based on genomic DNA copy number alterations. The subtypes varied with respect to level of genomic instability. We find that shorter telomeres and altered telomere related gene expression are associated with amplification, implicating telomere attrition as a promoter of this type of aberration in breast cancer. On the other hand, the numbers of chromosomal alterations, particularly low level changes, are associated with altered expression of genes in other functional classes (mitosis, cell cycle, DNA replication and repair). Further, although loss of function instability phenotypes have been demonstrated for many of the genes in model systems, we observed enhanced expression of most genes in tumors, indicating that over expression, rather than deficiency underlies instability.
Many of the genes associated with higher frequency of copy number aberrations are direct targets of E2F, supporting the hypothesis that deregulation of the Rb pathway is a major contributor to chromosomal instability in breast tumors. These observations are consistent with failure to find mutations in sporadic tumors in genes that have roles in maintenance or manipulation of the genome.
The development of cancer has been associated with the gradual acquisition of genetic alterations leading to a progressive increase in malignancy. In various cancer types this process is enabled and accelerated by genome instability. While genome sequencing-based analysis of tumor genomes becomes increasingly a standard procedure in human cancer research, the potential necessity of genome instability for tumorigenesis in Drosophila melanogaster has, to our knowledge, never been determined at DNA sequence level. Therefore, we induced formation of tumors by depletion of the Drosophila tumor suppressor Polyhomeotic and subjected them to genome sequencing. To achieve a highly resolved delineation of the genome structure we developed the Deterministic Structural Variation Detection (DSVD) algorithm, which identifies structural variations (SVs) with high accuracy and at single base resolution. The employment of long overlapping paired-end reads enables DSVD to perform a deterministic, i.e. fragment size distribution independent, identification of a large size spectrum of SVs. Application of DSVD and other algorithms to our sequencing data reveals substantial genetic variation with respect to the reference genome reflecting temporal separation of the reference and laboratory strains. The majority of SVs, constituted by small insertions/deletions, is potentially caused by erroneous replication or transposition of mobile elements. Nevertheless, the tumor did not depict a loss of genome integrity compared to the control. Altogether, our results demonstrate that genome stability is not affected inevitably during sustained tumor growth in Drosophila implying that tumorigenesis, in this model organism, can occur irrespective of genome instability and the accumulation of specific genetic alterations.
Genetic instability plays a key role in the formation of naturally occurring cancer. The formation of long DNA palindromes is a rate-limiting step in gene amplification, a common form of tumor-associated genetic instability. Genome-wide analysis of palindrome formation (GAPF) has detected both extensive palindrome formation and gene amplification, beginning early in tumorigenesis, in an experimental Myc-induced model tumor system in the chicken bursa of Fabricius. We determined that GAPF-detected palindromes are abundant and distributed nonrandomly throughout the genome of bursal lymphoma cells, frequently at preexisting short inverted repeats. By combining GAPF with chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP), we found a significant association between occupancy of gene-proximal Myc binding sites and the formation of palindromes. Numbers of palindromic loci correlate with increases in both levels of Myc over-expression and ChIP-detected occupancy of Myc binding sites in bursal cells. However, clonal analysis of chick DF-1 fibroblasts suggests that palindrome formation is a stochastic process occurring in individual cells at a small number of loci relative to much larger numbers of susceptible loci in the cell population and that the induction of palindromes is not involved in Myc-induced acute fibroblast transformation. GAPF-detected palindromes at the highly oncogenic bic/miR-155 locus in all of our preneoplastic and neoplastic bursal samples, but not in DNA from normal and other transformed cell types. This finding indicates very strong selection during bursal lymphomagenesis. Therefore, in addition to providing a platform for gene copy number change, palindromes may alter microRNA genes in a fashion that can contribute to cancer development.
Genetic instability is a key process in the development of naturally occurring cancer. Gene amplification is one important consequence of underlying oncogenic instability. Long DNA palindrome formation is a rate-limiting early step in gene amplification. The development of a new functional genomic tool called genome-wide analysis of palindrome formation (GAPF) led to the recent discovery of the widespread occurrence of such palindromes in both animal tumor models and human tumor cells. Using a Myc oncogene-induced lymphoma model system, this paper describes clustering of tumor-specific palindromes throughout the genome as well as an association of sites of palindrome formation with both preexisting short inverted DNA repeat sequences and occupied Myc DNA-binding sites. We discovered consistent palindrome formation at a cancer-associated microRNA gene called bic/miR-155, beginning at an early stage of tumor development, and without significant further amplification of the locus. Thus, DNA palindromes themselves may directly influence tumorigenesis.
Triplet repeat expansion is the molecular basis for several human diseases. Intensive studies using systems in bacteria, yeast, flies, mammalian cells, and mice have provided important insights into the molecular processes that are responsible for mediating repeat instability. The age-dependent, ongoing repeat instability in somatic tissues, especially in terminally differentiated neurons, strongly suggests a robust role for pathways that are independent of DNA replication. Several genetic studies have indicated that transcription can play a critical role in repeat instability, potentially providing a basis for the instability observed in neurons. Transcription-induced repeat instability can be modulated by several DNA repair proteins, including those involved in mismatch repair (MMR) and transcription-coupled nucleotide excision repair (TC-NER). Though the mechanism is unclear, it is likely that transcription facilitates the formation of repeat-specific secondary structures, which act as intermediates to trigger DNA repair, eventually leading to changes in the length of the repeat tract. In addition, other processes associated with transcription can also modulate repeat instability, as shown in a variety of different systems. Overall, the mechanisms underlying repeat instability in humans are unexpectedly complicated. Because repeat-disease genes are widely expressed, transcription undoubtedly contributes to the repeat instability observed in many diseases, but it may be especially important in nondividing cells. Transcription-induced instability is likely to involve an extensive interplay not only of the core transcription machinery and DNA repair proteins, but also of proteins involved in chromatin remodeling, regulation of supercoiling, and removal of stalled RNA polymerases, as well as local DNA sequence effects.
triplet repeats; transcription-induced instability; abnormal DNA structures; mismatch repair; nucleotide excision repair
Huntington's disease (HD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder caused by expansion of an unstable CAG repeat in the coding sequence of the Huntingtin (HTT) gene. Instability affects both germline and somatic cells. Somatic instability increases with age and is tissue-specific. In particular, the CAG repeat sequence in the striatum, the brain region that preferentially degenerates in HD, is highly unstable, whereas it is rather stable in the disease-spared cerebellum. The mechanisms underlying the age-dependence and tissue-specificity of somatic CAG instability remain obscure. Recent studies have suggested that DNA oxidation and OGG1, a glycosylase involved in the repair of 8-oxoguanine lesions, contribute to this process. We show that in HD mice oxidative DNA damage abnormally accumulates at CAG repeats in a length-dependent, but age- and tissue-independent manner, indicating that oxidative DNA damage alone is not sufficient to trigger somatic instability. Protein levels and activities of major base excision repair (BER) enzymes were compared between striatum and cerebellum of HD mice. Strikingly, 5′-flap endonuclease activity was much lower in the striatum than in the cerebellum of HD mice. Accordingly, Flap Endonuclease-1 (FEN1), the main enzyme responsible for 5′-flap endonuclease activity, and the BER cofactor HMGB1, both of which participate in long-patch BER (LP–BER), were also significantly lower in the striatum compared to the cerebellum. Finally, chromatin immunoprecipitation experiments revealed that POLβ was specifically enriched at CAG expansions in the striatum, but not in the cerebellum of HD mice. These in vivo data fit a model in which POLβ strand displacement activity during LP–BER promotes the formation of stable 5′-flap structures at CAG repeats representing pre-expanded intermediate structures, which are not efficiently removed when FEN1 activity is constitutively low. We propose that the stoichiometry of BER enzymes is one critical factor underlying the tissue selectivity of somatic CAG expansion.
Huntington's disease (HD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that belongs to a family of genetic diseases caused by abnormal expansion of CAG/CTG repetitive sequences. The instability of trinucleotide repeat expansions in germline and somatic cells has deleterious clinical consequences in HD. For instance, transmission of longer repeats to offspring results in an earlier onset of disease, where extensive somatic expansion in the striatum, the brain region primarily affected in HD, is proposed to accelerate disease pathology. Thus, understanding the mechanisms of trinucleotide repeat instability is a major interest. We have examined the role of oxidative DNA damage and base excision repair (BER) in somatic instability, which is tissue-selective and age-dependent. We show that oxidative DNA lesions abnormally accumulate at CAG expansions in a length-dependent, yet age- and tissue-independent manners, likely due to the secondary structures formed by CAG repeats that limit access of enzymes initiating BER. In addition, our data indicate that repair by BER enzymes of some of the accessible lesions results in somatic expansion when the ratio of FEN1 to POLβ is low, as found to occur in the striatum. Our results support BER enzyme stoichiometry as a contributor to the tissue selectivity of somatic CAG expansion in HD.
Colorectal cancer arises as a consequence of the accumulation of genetic alterations (gene mutations, gene amplification, and so on) and epigenetic alterations (aberrant DNA methylation, chromatin modifications, and so on) that transform colonic epithelial cells into colon adenocarcinoma cells. The loss of genomic stability and resulting gene alterations are key molecular pathogenic steps that occur early in tumorigenesis; they permit the acquisition of a sufficient number of alterations in tumor suppressor genes and oncogenes that transform cells and promote tumor progression. Two predominant forms of genomic instability that have been identified in colon cancer are microsatellite instability and chromosome instability. Substantial progress has been made to identify causes of chromosomal instability in colorectal cells and to determine the effects of the different forms of genomic instability on the biological and clinical behavior of colon tumors. In addition to genomic instability, epigenetic instability results in the aberrant methylation of tumor suppressor genes. Determining the causes and roles of genomic and epigenomic instability in colon tumor formation has the potential to yield more effective prevention strategies and therapeutics for patients with colorectal cancer.
The expansion of CAG/CTG repeats is responsible for many diseases, including Huntington's disease (HD) and myotonic dystrophy 1. CAG/CTG expansions are unstable in selective somatic tissues, which accelerates disease progression. The mechanisms underlying repeat instability are complex, and it remains unclear whether chromatin structure and/or transcription contribute to somatic CAG/CTG instability in vivo. To address these issues, we investigated the relationship between CAG instability, chromatin structure, and transcription at the HD locus using the R6/1 and R6/2 HD transgenic mouse lines. These mice express a similar transgene, albeit integrated at a different site, and recapitulate HD tissue-specific instability. We show that instability rates are increased in R6/2 tissues as compared to R6/1 matched-samples. High transgene expression levels and chromatin accessibility correlated with the increased CAG instability of R6/2 mice. Transgene mRNA and H3K4 trimethylation at the HD locus were increased, whereas H3K9 dimethylation was reduced in R6/2 tissues relative to R6/1 matched-tissues. However, the levels of transgene expression and these specific histone marks were similar in the striatum and cerebellum, two tissues showing very different CAG instability levels, irrespective of mouse line. Interestingly, the levels of elongating RNA Pol II at the HD locus, but not the initiating form of RNA Pol II, were tissue-specific and correlated with CAG instability levels. Similarly, H3K36 trimethylation, a mark associated with transcription elongation, was specifically increased at the HD locus in the striatum and not in the cerebellum. Together, our data support the view that transcription modulates somatic CAG instability in vivo. More specifically, our results suggest for the first time that transcription elongation is regulated in a tissue-dependent manner, contributing to tissue-selective CAG instability.
Several dominant genetic diseases, including Huntington's disease (HD) and myotonic dystrophy 1, are caused by the expansion of CAG/CTG repeats. These repeats are unstable in selective tissues. Repeat instability, resulting in the production of increasingly toxic mutant entities in the affected tissues, is proposed to accelerate disease progression. It is therefore essential to unravel the mechanisms contributing to tissue-selective somatic instability. In vitro and cell-based studies indicate that transcription is involved in CAG/CTG instability. However, the role of transcription in CAG/CTG instability in vivo has remained controversial, since mRNA tissue levels of CAG/CTG repeat-containing genes do not correlate with the tissue-specific pattern of instability. Moreover, it is unclear whether the transcriptional process would contribute per se to CAG/CTG instability or whether it is the increased chromatin accessibility associated with transcription that would promote instability. We addressed these issues using two HD transgenic mouse lines recapitulating HD tissue-specific instability. Our in vivo data indicate that high chromatin accessibility and transgene expression do not underlie tissue-selective CAG instability in HD, but suggest that the dynamics of transcription elongation is one mechanism contributing to this process.
Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at tumor suppressor loci is a major contributor to cancer initiation and progression. Both deletions and mitotic recombination can lead to LOH. Certain chromosomal loci known as common fragile sites are susceptible to DNA lesions under replication stress, and replication stress is prevalent in early stage tumor cells. There is extensive evidence for deletions stimulated by common fragile sites in tumors, but the role of fragile sites in stimulating mitotic recombination that causes LOH is unknown. Here, we have used the yeast model system to study the relationship between fragile site instability and mitotic recombination that results in LOH. A naturally occurring fragile site, FS2, exists on the right arm of yeast chromosome III, and we have analyzed LOH on this chromosome. We report that the frequency of spontaneous mitotic BIR events resulting in LOH on the right arm of yeast chromosome III is higher than expected, and that replication stress by low levels of polymerase alpha increases mitotic recombination 12-fold. Using single-nucleotide polymorphisms between the two chromosome III homologs, we mapped the locations of recombination events and determined that FS2 is a strong hotspot for both mitotic reciprocal crossovers and break-induced replication events under conditions of replication stress.
Loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at tumor-suppressor genes contributes to cancer, and deletions resulting in LOH are frequently observed in tumor cells at certain chromosomal regions known as common fragile sites. LOH can also result from repair of DNA damage by mitotic recombination, if the homologous chromosome rather than the sister chromatid is used as a repair template. The extent to which fragile site instability causes LOH by mitotic recombination with the homologous chromosome is unknown. We evaluated mitotic recombination on the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae chromosome III, which contains a naturally-occurring fragile site known as FS2. We report that yeast chromosome III has a high frequency of spontaneous mitotic recombination that involves the homologous chromosome. Under conditions that stimulate instability at the fragile site, LOH resulting from mitotic recombination on yeast chromosome III is increased 12-fold, and FS2 is a hotspot for initiating these events. These results suggest that instability at human common fragile sites may drive mitotic recombination repair pathways that cause LOH and promote tumorogenesis.
Human germ cell tumors are often metastatic, presumably due to distal site tumor growth by cancer stem cells. To determine whether cancer stem cells can be identified in a transplantation model of testicular germ cell tumor, we transplanted murine embryonic germ cells (EGCs) into the testis of adult severe combined immunodeficient mice. Transplantation resulted in a locally invasive solid tumor, with a cellular component that generated secondary tumors upon serial transplantation. The secondary tumors were invariably metastatic, a feature not observed in the primary tumors derived from EGCs. To characterize the differences between EGCs and the tumor-derived stem cells, we performed karyotype and microarray analysis. Our results show that generation of cancer stem cells is associated with the acquisition of nonclonal genomic rearrangements not found in the originating population. Furthermore, pretreatment of EGCs with a potent inhibitor of self-renewal, retinoic acid, prevented tumor formation and the emergence of these genetically unstable cancer stem cells. Microarray analysis revealed that EGCs and first- and second-generation cancer stem cells were highly similar; however, approximately 1,000 differentially expressed transcripts could be identified corresponding to alterations in oncogenes and genes associated with motility and development. Combined, the data suggest that the activation of oncogenic pathways in a cellular background of genetic instability, coupled with an inherent ability to self-renew, is involved in the acquisition of metastatic behavior in the cancer stem cell population of tumors derived from pluripotent cells.
Embryonal carcinoma; Embryonic stem cells; Germ line; Retinoic acid
Dysfunctions of genome caretaker genes contribute to genomic instability and tumor initiation. Because many of the caretaker genes are also essential for cell viability, permanent loss of function of these genes would prohibit further tumor progression. How essential caretaker genes contribute to tumorigenesis is not fully understood. Here, we report a “hit-and-run” mode of action for an essential caretaker gene in tumorigenesis. Using a BRCA2-interacting protein BCCIP as a platform, we found that a conditional BCCIP knockdown and concomitant p53 deletion caused rapid development of medulloblastomas, which bear a wide spectrum of alternations involving the Sonic hedgehog (Shh) pathway, consistent with a caretaker responsibility of BCCIP on genomic integrity. Surprisingly, the progressed tumors have spontaneously lost the transgenic BCCIP knockdown cassette and restored BCCIP expression. Thus, a transient down-regulation of BCCIP, but not necessarily a permanent mutation, is sufficient to initiate tumorigenesis. Once the malignant transformation has been accomplished and autonomous cancer growth has been established, BCCIP reverses its role from a tumor initiation suppressor to become a requisite for progression. This exemplifies a new type of tumor suppressor, which is distinct from the classical tumor suppressors that are often permanently abrogated during tumorigenesis. It has major implications on how a non-mutagenic or transient regulation of essential caretaker gene contributes to tumorigenesis. We further suggest that BCCIP represents a paradoxical class of modulators for tumorigenesis, as a Suppressor for Initiation but a Requisite for Progression (SIRP).
DNA Repair; tumor suppressor; homologous recombination; genomic instability; BRCA2; BCCIP; Suppressor of Initiation and Requisite for Progression (SIRP); medulloblastoma
Expansions of trinucleotide CAG/CTG repeats in somatic tissues are thought to contribute to ongoing disease progression through an affected individual's life with Huntington's disease or myotonic dystrophy. Broad ranges of repeat instability arise between individuals with expanded repeats, suggesting the existence of modifiers of repeat instability. Mice with expanded CAG/CTG repeats show variable levels of instability depending upon mouse strain. However, to date the genetic modifiers underlying these differences have not been identified. We show that in liver and striatum the R6/1 Huntington's disease (HD) (CAG)∼100 transgene, when present in a congenic C57BL/6J (B6) background, incurred expansion-biased repeat mutations, whereas the repeat was stable in a congenic BALB/cByJ (CBy) background. Reciprocal congenic mice revealed the Msh3 gene as the determinant for the differences in repeat instability. Expansion bias was observed in congenic mice homozygous for the B6 Msh3 gene on a CBy background, while the CAG tract was stabilized in congenics homozygous for the CBy Msh3 gene on a B6 background. The CAG stabilization was as dramatic as genetic deficiency of Msh2. The B6 and CBy Msh3 genes had identical promoters but differed in coding regions and showed strikingly different protein levels. B6 MSH3 variant protein is highly expressed and associated with CAG expansions, while the CBy MSH3 variant protein is expressed at barely detectable levels, associating with CAG stability. The DHFR protein, which is divergently transcribed from a promoter shared by the Msh3 gene, did not show varied levels between mouse strains. Thus, naturally occurring MSH3 protein polymorphisms are modifiers of CAG repeat instability, likely through variable MSH3 protein stability. Since evidence supports that somatic CAG instability is a modifier and predictor of disease, our data are consistent with the hypothesis that variable levels of CAG instability associated with polymorphisms of DNA repair genes may have prognostic implications for various repeat-associated diseases.
The genetic instability of repetitive DNA sequences in particular genes can lead to numerous neurodegenerative, neurological, and neuromuscular diseases. These diseases show progressively increasing severity of symptoms through the life of the affected individual, a phenomenon that is linked with increasing instability of the repeated sequences as the person ages. There is variability in the levels of this instability between individuals—the source of this variability is unknown. We have shown in a mouse model of repeat instability that small differences in a certain DNA repair gene, MSH3, whose protein is known to fix broken DNA, can lead to variable levels of repeat instability. These DNA repair variants lead to different repair protein levels, where lower levels lead to reduced repeat instability. Our findings reveal that such naturally occurring variations in DNA repair genes in affected humans may serve as a predictor of disease progression. Moreover, our findings support the concept that pharmacological reduction of MSH3 protein should reduce repeat instability and disease progression.
Recent studies in cancer cells and budding yeast demonstrated that aneuploidy, the state of having abnormal chromosome numbers, correlates with elevated chromosome instability (CIN), i.e. the propensity of gaining and losing chromosomes at a high frequency. Here we have investigated ploidy- and chromosome-specific determinants underlying aneuploidy-induced CIN by observing karyotype dynamics in fully isogenic aneuploid yeast strains with ploidies between 1N and 2N obtained through a random meiotic process. The aneuploid strains exhibited various levels of whole-chromosome instability (i.e. chromosome gains and losses). CIN correlates with cellular ploidy in an unexpected way: cells with a chromosomal content close to the haploid state are significantly more stable than cells displaying an apparent ploidy between 1.5 and 2N. We propose that the capacity for accurate chromosome segregation by the mitotic system does not scale continuously with an increasing number of chromosomes, but may occur via discrete steps each time a full set of chromosomes is added to the genome. On top of such general ploidy-related effect, CIN is also associated with the presence of specific aneuploid chromosomes as well as dosage imbalance between specific chromosome pairs. Our findings potentially help reconcile the divide between gene-centric versus genome-centric theories in cancer evolution.
Aneuploidy, the state of harboring an unbalanced number of chromosomes, has long been hypothesized to be at the basis of malignant transformation. Recent studies have also shown that aneuploidy is an important form of genome alteration underlying adaptive evolution of cells in response to harsh environments or genetic perturbations. In addition to the profound effect that aneuploidy has on gene expression and phenotype, another feature thought to contribute to aneuploidy's role in cancer and cellular evolution is the heightened chromosome instability of aneuploid cells. Since chromosome instability is the condition of gaining and losing chromosomes at a high frequency, this could lead to a vicious cycle in which aneuploidy could lead to further enhanced genetic diversity. Given the ever-changing and heterogeneous aneuploid cell populations, and the difficulty of separating the effect of aneuploidy from other types of genetic aberrations, the molecular mechanisms underlying aneuploidy-driven chromosome instability have remained largely unexplored. Here we describe the first unbiased and systematic investigation of chromosome instability associated with aneuploid genomes in the budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Our results revealed both genome-level and chromosome-specific determinants of chromosome instability in aneuploid yeast. Our findings potentially help explain the molecular mechanism underlying a major source of genome instability in cancer.
We describe the basic tenets of the current concepts of cancer biology, and review the recent advances on the suppressor role of senescence in tumor growth and the breakdown of this barrier during the origin of tumor growth. Senescence phenotype can be induced by (1) telomere attrition-induced senescence at the end of the cellular mitotic life span (MLS*) and (2) also by replication history-independent, accelerated senescence due to inadvertent activation of oncogenes or by exposure of cells to genotoxins. Tumor suppressor genes p53/pRB/p16INK4A and related senescence checkpoints are involved in effecting the onset of senescence. However, senescence as a tumor suppressor mechanism is a leaky process and senescent cells with mutations or epimutations in these genes escape mitotic catastrophe-induced cell death by becoming polyploid cells. These polyploid giant cells, before they die, give rise to several cells with viable genomes via nuclear budding and asymmetric cytokinesis. This mode of cell division has been termed neosis and the immediate neotic offspring the Raju cells. The latter inherit genomic instability and transiently display stem cell properties in that they differentiate into tumor cells and display extended, but, limited MLS, at the end of which they enter senescent phase and can undergo secondary/tertiary neosis to produce the next generation of Raju cells. Neosis is repeated several times during tumor growth in a non-synchronized fashion, is the mode of origin of resistant tumor growth and contributes to tumor cell heterogeneity and continuity. The main event during neosis appears to be the production of mitotically viable daughter genome after epigenetic modulation from the non-viable polyploid genome of neosis mother cell (NMC). This leads to the growth of resistant tumor cells. Since during neosis, spindle checkpoint is not activated, this may give rise to aneuploidy. Thus, tumor cells also are destined to die due to senescence, but may escape senescence due to mutations or epimutations in the senescent checkpoint pathway. A historical review of neosis-like events is presented and implications of neosis in relation to the current dogmas of cancer biology are discussed. Genesis and repetitive re-genesis of Raju cells with transient "stemness" via neosis are of vital importance to the origin and continuous growth of tumors, a process that appears to be common to all types of tumors. We suggest that unlike current anti-mitotic therapy of cancers, anti-neotic therapy would not cause undesirable side effects. We propose a rational hypothesis for the origin and progression of tumors in which neosis plays a major role in the multistep carcinogenesis in different types of cancers. We define cancers as a single disease of uncontrolled neosis due to failure of senescent checkpoint controls.
Genomic instability, which occurs through both genetic mechanisms (underlying inheritable phenotypic variations caused by DNA sequence-dependent alterations, such as mutation, deletion, insertion, inversion, translocation, and chromosomal aneuploidy) and epigenomic aberrations (underlying inheritable phenotypic variations caused by DNA sequence-independent alterations caused by a change of chromatin structure, such as DNA methylation and histone modifications), is known to promote tumorigenesis and tumor progression. Mechanisms involve both genomic instability and epigenomic aberrations that lose or gain the function of genes that impinge on tumor suppression/prevention or oncogenesis. Growing evidence points to an epigenome-wide disruption that involves large-scale DNA hypomethylation but specific hypermethylation of tumor suppressor genes, large blocks of aberrant histone modifications, and abnormal miRNA expression profile. Emerging molecular details regarding the modulation of these epigenetic events in cancer are used to illustrate the alterations of epigenetic molecules, and their consequent malfunctions could contribute to cancer biology. More recently, intriguing evidence supporting that genetic and epigenetic mechanisms are not separate events in cancer has been emerging; they intertwine and take advantage of each other during tumorigenesis. In addition, we discuss the collusion between epigenetics and genetics mediated by heterochromatin protein 1, a major component of heterochromatin, in order to maintain genome integrity.
epigenomics; genetics; heterochromatin-specific nonhistone chromosomal protein HP-1; neoplasms
Cancer is a genetic disorder in which gene alterations are selected to provide growth advantage by oncogene activation and/or tumor suppressor gene inactivation. Even marked intra-tumor variation in the histologic pattern, which is common in gastric carcinoma, is considered a result of distinct oncogenic pathways coexisting together. The present review describes that most gastric carcinomas arise through two distinct genetic pathways: microsatellite instability targeting the mononucleotide tracts within coding regions of cancer-related genes and chromosomal deletion involving tumor suppressor genes. With regard to malignant phenotypes, microsatellite instability is associated with the intestinal histological type and chromosomal deletion is correlated with the growth pattern of gastric carcinoma. Moreover, the genetic instability would in turn lead to an increase in alterations of cancer-related genes. The corresponding cells gradually manifest diverse neoplastic properties, thus bringing about consecutive subclonal evolution of more malignant cells. We now have some dues leading to the characterization of phenotypic complexity of gastric carcinoma based on gene-inactivation mechanisms.
C57BL/6J mice carrying the Min allele of Adenomatous polyposis coli (Apc) develop numerous adenomas along the entire length of the intestine and consequently die at an early age. This short lifespan would prevent the accumulation of somatic genetic mutations or epigenetic alterations necessary for tumor progression. To overcome this limitation, we generated F1 ApcMin/+ hybrids by crossing C57BR/cdcJ and SWR/J females to B6 ApcMin/+ males. These hybrids developed few intestinal tumors and often lived longer than 1 year. Many of the tumors (24–87%) were invasive adenocarcinomas, in which neoplastic tissue penetrated through the muscle wall into the mesentery. In a few cases (3%), lesions metastasized by extension to regional lymph nodes. The development of these familial cancers does not require chromosomal gains or losses, a high level of microsatellite instability, or the presence of Helicobacter. To test whether genetic instability might accelerate tumor progression, we generated ApcMin/+ mice homozygous for the hypomorphic allele of the Nijmegen breakage syndrome gene (Nbs1ΔB) and also treated ApcMin/+ mice with a strong somatic mutagen. These imposed genetic instabilities did not reduce the time required for cancers to form, nor increase the percentage of cancers, nor drive progression to the point of distant metastasis. In summary, we have found that the ApcMin/+ mouse model for familial intestinal cancer can develop frequent invasive cancers in the absence of overt genomic instability. Possible factors that promote invasion include age-dependent epigenetic changes, conservative somatic recombination, or direct effects of alleles in the F1 hybrid genetic background.
Intestinal neoplasia; invasive adenocarcinomas; local metastasis; microsatellite instability; chromosomal instability
It remains presently unclear whether disease progression in colorectal carcinoma (CRC), from early, to invasive and metastatic forms, is associated to a gradual increase in genetic instability and to a scheme of sequentially occurring Copy Number Alterations (CNAs).
In this work we set to determine the existence of such links between CRC progression and genetic instability and searched for associations with patient outcome. To this aim we analyzed a set of 162 Chromosomal Instable (CIN) CRCs comprising 131 primary carcinomas evenly distributed through stage 1 to 4, 31 metastases and 14 adenomas by array-CGH. CNA profiles were established according to disease stage and compared. We, also, asked whether the level of genomic instability was correlated to disease outcome in stage 2 and 3 CRCs. Two metrics of chromosomal instability were used; (i) Global Genomic Index (GGI), corresponding to the fraction of the genome involved in CNA, (ii) number of breakpoints (nbBP).
Stage 1, 2, 3 and 4 tumors did not differ significantly at the level of their CNA profiles precluding the conventional definition of a progression scheme based on increasing levels of genetic instability. Combining GGI and nbBP,we classified genomic profiles into 5 groups presenting distinct patterns of chromosomal instability and defined two risk classes of tumors, showing strong differences in outcome and hazard risk (RFS: p = 0.012, HR = 3; OS: p < 0.001, HR = 9.7). While tumors of the high risk group were characterized by frequent fractional CNAs, low risk tumors presented predominantly whole chromosomal arm CNAs. Searching for CNAs correlating with negative outcome we found that losses at 16p13.3 and 19q13.3 observed in 10% (7/72) of stage 2–3 tumors showed strong association with early relapse (p < 0.001) and death (p < 0.007, p < 0.016). Both events showed frequent co-occurrence (p < 1x10-8) and could, therefore, mark for stage 2–3 CRC susceptible to negative outcome.
Our data show that CRC disease progression from stage 1 to stage 4 is not paralleled by increased levels of genetic instability. However, they suggest that stage 2–3 CRC with elevated genetic instability and particularly profiles with fractional CNA represent a subset of aggressive tumors.
Colorectal cancer; Genomic instability; Breakpoint; Array CGH; CIN tumors; Adenoma; Primary tumors; Metastasis; Outcome; 16p13.3; 19q13.3
Tumor suppressor genes are classified by their somatic behavior either as caretakers (CTs) that maintain DNA integrity or as gatekeepers (GKs) that regulate cell survival, but the germ line role of these disease-related gene subgroups may differ. To test this hypothesis, we have used genomic data mining to compare the features of human CTs (n = 38), GKs (n = 36), DNA repair genes (n = 165), apoptosis genes (n = 622), and their orthologs. This analysis reveals that repair genes are numerically less common than apoptosis genes in the genomes of multicellular organisms (P < 0.01), whereas CT orthologs are commoner than GK orthologs in unicellular organisms (P < 0.05). Gene targeting data show that CTs are less essential than GKs for survival of multicellular organisms (P < 0.0005) and that CT knockouts often permit offspring viability at the cost of male sterility. Patterns of human familial oncogenic mutations confirm that isolated CT loss is commoner than is isolated GK loss (P < 0.00001). In sexually reproducing species, CTs appear subject to less efficient purifying selection (i.e., higher Ka/Ks) than GKs (P = 0.000003); the faster evolution of CTs seems likely to be mediated by gene methylation and reduced transcription-coupled repair, based on differences in dinucleotide patterns (P = 0.001). These data suggest that germ line CT/repair gene function is relatively dispensable for survival, and imply that milder (e.g., epimutational) male prezygotic repair defects could enhance sperm variation—and hence environmental adaptation and speciation—while sparing fertility. We submit that CTs and repair genes are general targets for epigenetically initiated adaptive evolution, and propose a model in which human cancers arise in part as an evolutionarily programmed side effect of age- and damage-inducible genetic instability affecting both somatic and germ line lineages.
molecular evolution; adaptive evolution; carcinogenesis; DNA repair
Genetic and epigenetic alterations in colorectal cancer are numerous. However, it is difficult to judge whether such changes are primary or secondary to the appearance and progression of tumors. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to identify altered DNA regions with significant covariation to transcription alterations along colon cancer progression.
Tumor and normal colon tissue were obtained at primary operations from 24 patients selected by chance. DNA, RNA and microRNAs were extracted from the same biopsy material in all individuals and analyzed by oligo-nucleotide array-based comparative genomic hybridization (CGH), mRNA- and microRNA oligo-arrays. Statistical analyses were performed to assess statistical interactions (correlations, co-variations) between DNA copy number changes and significant alterations in gene and microRNA expression using appropriate parametric and non-parametric statistics.
Main DNA alterations were located on chromosome 7, 8, 13 and 20. Tumor DNA copy number gain increased with tumor progression, significantly related to increased gene expression. Copy number loss was not observed in Dukes A tumors. There was no significant relationship between expressed genes and tumor progression across Dukes A–D tumors; and no relationship between tumor stage and the number of microRNAs with significantly altered expression. Interaction analyses identified overall 41 genes, which discriminated early Dukes A plus B tumors from late Dukes C plus D tumor; 28 of these genes remained with correlations between genomic and transcriptomic alterations in Dukes C plus D tumors and 17 in Dukes D. One microRNA (microR-663) showed interactions with DNA alterations in all Dukes A-D tumors.
Our modeling confirms that colon cancer progression is related to genomic instability and altered gene expression. However, early invasive tumor growth seemed rather related to transcriptomic alterations, where changes in microRNA may be an early phenomenon, and less to DNA copy number changes.
CGH array; colorectal cancer; microRNA; transcription
The development and progression of gastric cancer involves a number of genetic and epigenetic alterations of tumor suppressor and tumor-related genes. The majority of differentiated carcinomas arise from intestinal metaplastic mucosa and exhibit structurally altered tumor suppressor genes, typified by p53, which is inactivated via the classic two-hit mechanism, i.e. loss of heterozygosity (LOH) and mutation of the remaining allele. LOH at certain chromosomal loci accumulates during tumor progression. Approximately 20% of differentiated carcinomas show evidence of mutator pathway tumorigenesis due to hMLH1 inactivation via hypermethylation of promoter CpG islands, and exhibit high-frequency microsatellite instability. In contrast, undifferentiated carcinomas rarely exhibit structurally altered tumor suppressor genes. For instance, while methylation of E-cadherin is often observed in undifferentiated carcinomas, mutation of this gene is generally associated with the progression from differentiated to undifferentiated carcinomas. Hypermethylation of tumor suppressor and tumor-related genes, including APC, CHFR, DAP-kinase, DCC, E-cadherin, GSTP1, hMLH1, p16, PTEN, RASSF1A, RUNX3, and TSLC1, can be detected in both differentiated and undifferentiated carcinomas at varying frequencies. However, the significance of the hypermethylation varies according to the analyzed genomic region, and hypermethylation of these genes can also be present in non-neoplastic gastric epithelia. Promoter demethylation of specific genes, such as MAGE and synuclein γ, can occur during the progressive stages of both histological types, and is associated with patient prognosis. Thus, while the molecular pathways of gastric carcinogenesis are dependent on histological background, specific genetic alterations can still be used for risk assessment, diagnosis, and prognosis.
Gastric cancer; p53; E-cadherin; hMLH1; Methylation