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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Feb 17;106(7):2265-70. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0812763106. Epub 2009 Jan 27.

Chromosomal location targets different MYC family gene members for oncogenic translocations.

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  • 1The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Children's Hospital Boston, and Department of Genetics, Harvard Medical School, 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The MYC family of cellular oncogenes includes c-Myc, N-myc, and L-myc, which encode transcriptional regulators involved in the control of cell proliferation and death. Accordingly, these genes become aberrantly activated and expressed in specific types of cancers. For example, c-Myc translocations occur frequently in human B lymphoid tumors, while N-myc gene amplification is frequent in human neuroblastomas. The observed association between aberrations in particular MYC family genes and specific subsets of malignancies might reflect, at least in part, tissue-specific differences in expression or function of a given MYC gene. Since c-Myc and N-myc share substantial functional redundancy, another factor that could influence tumor-specific gene activation would be mechanisms that target aberrations (e.g., translocations) in a given MYC gene in a particular tumor progenitor cell type. We have previously shown that mice deficient for the DNA Ligase4 (Lig4) nonhomologous DNA end-joining factor and the p53 tumor suppressor routinely develop progenitor (pro)-B cell lymphomas that harbor translocations leading to c-Myc amplification. Here, we report that a modified allele in which the c-Myc coding sequence is replaced by N-myc coding sequence (NCR allele) competes well with the wild-type c-Myc allele as a target for oncogenic translocations and amplifications in the Lig4/p53-deficient pro-B cell lymphoma model. Tumor onset, type, and cytological aberrations are similar in tumors harboring either the wild-type c-Myc gene or the NCR allele. Our results support the notion that particular features of the c-Myc locus select it as a preferential translocation/amplification target, compared to the endogenous N-myc locus, in Lig4/p53-deficient pro-B cell lymphomas.

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