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Multi-species genome comparison sheds new light on evolutionary processes, cancer mutations

rrangement of DNA in the resulting offspring. Such inheritable rearrangements may be lethal or cause disease. However, in some cases, the breaks may lead to the production of new or altered proteins with potential to benefit an organism. In addition to their evolutionary implications, chromosomal translocations are known to contribute to the development or progression of many types of cancer.

In their paper, researchers report that the chromosomal abnormalities most frequently associated with human cancer are far more likely to occur in or near the evolutionary breakage hotspots than are less common types of cancer-associated abnormalities. Researchers theorize that the rearrangements seen near breakage hotspots may activate genes that trigger cancer and/or inactivate genes that normally suppress cancer. However, they emphasize that far more work remains to be done to clarify the relationship between cancer and the breakage hotspots. One thing researchers have determined is that the regions immediately flanking the breakage hotspots contain more genes, on average, than the rest of the genome.

The team was led by Harris A. Lewin, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and William J. Murphy, Ph.D., of Texas A&M University in College Station. Mapping data for the dog genome were provided by NHGRI's Elaine Ostrander, Ph.D., and Heidi G. Parker, Ph.D., along with scientists from the French National Center for Scientific Research at the University of Rennes. Other study participants were from the National Cancer Institute, the Genome Institute of Singapore and the University of California at San Diego.

"Science tells us that the most effective tool we currently have to understand our own genome is to compare it with the genomes of other organisms. With each new genome that we sequence, we move closer to filling the gaps in our knowledge," said Dr. Ostrander, who is chief of the Cancer Genetics Branch in NHGRI's Division of In
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Source:NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute


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