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J Cell Biochem. 2008 Dec 15;105(6):1327-41. doi: 10.1002/jcb.21937.

Chromosome instability and tumor lethality suppression in carcinogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Pharmacology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee 38105, USA.


The maintenance and survival of each organism depends on its genome integrity. Alterations of essential genes, or aberrant chromosome number and structure lead to cell death. Paradoxically, cancer cells, especially in solid tumors, contain somatic gene mutations and are chromosome instability (CIN), suggesting a mechanism that cancer cells have acquired to suppress the lethal mutations and/or CIN. Herein we will discuss a tumor lethality suppression concept based on the studies of yeast genetic interactions and transgenic mice. During the early stages of the multistep process of tumorigenesis, incipient cancer cells probably have adopted genetic and epigenetic alterations to tolerate the lethal mutations of other genes that ensue, and to a larger extent CIN. In turn, CIN mediated massive gain and loss of genes provides a wider buffer for further genetic reshuffling, resulting in cancer cell heterogeneity, drug resistance and evasion of oncogene addiction, thus CIN may be both the effector and inducer of tumorigenesis. Accordingly, interfering with tumor lethality suppression could lead to cancer cell death or growth defects. Further validation of the tumor lethality suppression concept would help to elucidate the role of CIN in tumorigenesis, the relationship between CIN and somatic gene mutations, and would impact the design of anticancer drug development.

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