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Cancer Res. 2000 Apr 15;60(8):2140-5.

WWOX, a novel WW domain-containing protein mapping to human chromosome 16q23.3-24.1, a region frequently affected in breast cancer.

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Department of Carcinogenesis, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Science Park Research Division, Smithville 78957, USA.


Studies were conducted with the final goal of identifying genes of interest mapping to the chromosome region 16q23.3-24.1, an area commonly affected by allelic losses in breast cancer. To this end we generated a detailed physical map of the genomic region spanning between sequence-tagged site markers D16S518 and D16S516. To identify candidate genes, we used shotgun genomic sequencing as well as isolation and analysis of transcripts mapping to the area of interest. We identified and cloned a novel gene, the genomic structure of which spans the whole region of interest. We named this gene WWOX because it contains two WW domains coupled to a region with high homology to the short-chain dehydrogenase/reductase family of enzymes. The ORF of WWOX is 1245 bp long, encoding a 414-amino acid protein. This gene is composed of nine exons. We performed a mutation screening of WWOX exons in a panel of breast cancer lines, most of which are hemizygous for the 16q genomic region indicated. We found no evidence of mutations, thus indicating that WWOX is probably not a tumor suppressor gene. However, we observed that one case of homozygous deletion as well as two previously described translocation breakpoints map to intronic regions of this gene. We speculate that WWOX may span the yet uncharacterized common fragile site FRA16D region. In expression studies we found overexpression of WWOX in breast cancer cell lines when compared with normal breast cells and tissues. The highest normal expression of WWOX was observed in hormonally regulated tissues such as testis, ovary, and prostate. This expression pattern and the presence of a short-chain dehydrogenase/reductase domain and specific amino acid features suggest a role for WWOX in steroid metabolism. Interestingly, the presence of WW domains in the structure of WWOX indicate the likelihood that this protein physically interacts with other proteins. The unique features of WWOX and its possible association with cancer processes make it an interesting target for further investigation.

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