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IUBMB Life. 2004 Feb;56(2):65-81.

Aneuploidy, the primary cause of the multilateral genomic instability of neoplastic and preneoplastic cells.

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1
Dept. Mol. and Cell Biol., Donner Laboratory, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA. duesberg@uclink.berkeley.edu

Abstract

Cancers have a clonal origin, yet their chromosomes and genes are non-clonal or heterogeneous due to an inherent genomic instability. However, the cause of this genomic instability is still debated. One theory postulates that mutations in genes that are involved in DNA repair and in chromosome segregation are the primary causes of this instability. But there are neither consistent correlations nor is there functional proof for the mutation theory. Here we propose aneuploidy, an abnormal number of chromosomes, as the primary cause of the genomic instability of neoplastic and preneoplastic cells. Aneuploidy destabilizes the karyotype and thus the species, independent of mutation, because it corrupts highly conserved teams of proteins that segregate, synthesize and repair chromosomes. Likewise it destabilizes genes. The theory explains 12 of 12 specific features of genomic instability: (1) Mutagenic and non-mutagenic carcinogens induce genomic instability via aneuploidy. (2) Aneuploidy coincides and segregates with preneoplastic and neoplastic genomic instability. (3) Phenotypes of genomically unstable cells change and even revert at high rates, compared to those of diploid cells, via aneuploidy-catalyzed chromosome rearrangements. (4) Idiosyncratic features of cancers, like immortality and drug-resistance, derive from subspecies within the 'polyphyletic' diversity of individual cancers. (5) Instability is proportional to the degree of aneuploidy. (6) Multilateral chromosomal and genetic instabilities typically coincide, because aneuploidy corrupts multiple targets simultaneously. (7) Gene mutation is common, but neither consistent nor clonal in cancer cells as predicted by the aneuploidy theory. (8) Cancers fall into a near-diploid (2 N) class of low instability, a near 1.5 N class of high instability, or a near 3 N class of very high instability, because aneuploid fitness is maximized either by minimally unstable karyotypes or by maximally unstable, but adaptable karyotypes. (9) Dominant phenotypes, because of aneuploid genotypes. (10) Uncertain developmental phenotypes of Down and other aneuploidy syndromes, because supply-sensitive, diploid programs are destabilized by products from aneuploid genes supplied at abnormal concentrations; the maternal age-bias for Down's would reflect age-dependent defects of the spindle apparatus of oocytes. (11) Non-selective phenotypes, e.g., metastasis, because of linkage with selective phenotypes on the same chromosomes. (12) The target, induction of genomic instability, is several 1000-fold bigger than gene mutation, because it is entire chromosomes. The mutation theory explains only a few of these features. We conclude that the transition of stable diploid to unstable aneuploid cell species is the primary cause of preneoplastic and neoplastic genomic instability and of cancer, and that mutations are secondary.

PMID:
15085930
DOI:
10.1080/15216540410001667902
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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