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Histol Histopathol. 2003 Apr;18(2):665-77. doi: 10.14670/HH-18.665.

Epigenetic inactivation of the Ras-association domain family 1 (RASSF1A) gene and its function in human carcinogenesis.

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AG Tumorgenetik der Medizinischen Fakult├Ąt, Martin-Luther-Universit├Ąt Halle-Wittenberg, Halle/Saale, Germany.


The Ras GTPases are a superfamily of molecular switches that regulate cellular proliferation and apoptosis in response to extra-cellular signals. The regulation of these pathways depends on the interaction of the GTPases with specific effectors. Recently, we have cloned and characterized a novel gene encoding a putative Ras effector: the Ras-association domain family 1 (RASSF1) gene. The RASSF1 gene is located in the chromosomal segment of 3p21.3. The high allelic loss in a variety of cancers suggested a crucial role of this region in tumorigenesis. At least two forms of RASSF1 are present in normal human cells. The RASSF1A isoform is highly epigenetically inactivated in lung, breast, ovarian, kidney, prostate, thyroid and several other carcinomas. Re-expression of RASSF1A reduced the growth of human cancer cells supporting a role for RASSF1 as a tumor suppressor gene. RASSF1A inactivation and K-ras activation are mutually exclusive events in the development of certain carcinomas. This observation could further pinpoint the function of RASSF1A as a negative effector of Ras in a pro-apoptotic signaling pathway. In malignant mesothelioma and gastric cancer RASSF1A methylation is associated with virus infection of SV40 and EBV, respectively, and suggests a causal relationship between viral infection and progressive RASSF1A methylation in carcinogenesis. Furthermore, a significant correlation between RASSF1A methylation and impaired lung cancer patient survival was reported, and RASSF1A silencing was correlated with several parameters of poor prognosis and advanced tumor stage (e.g. poor differentiation, aggressiveness, and invasion). Thus, RASSF1A methylation could serve as a useful marker for the prognosis of cancer patients and could become important in early detection of cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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