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PLoS Biol. 2009 Jul;7(7):e1000161. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1000161. Epub 2009 Jul 28.

Aneuploidy and improved growth are coincident but not causal in a yeast cancer model.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, USA.


Cancer cells have acquired mutations that alter their growth. Aneuploidy that typify cancer cells are often assumed to contribute to the abnormal growth characteristics. Here we test the idea of a link between aneuploidy and mutations allowing improved growth, using Saccharomyces cerevisiae containing a mcm4 helicase allele that was shown to cause cancer in mice. Yeast bearing this mcm4 allele are prone to undergoing a "hypermutable phase" characterized by a changing karyotype, ultimately yielding progeny with improved growth properties. When such progeny are returned to a normal karyotype by mating, their improved growth remains. Genetic analysis shows their improved growth is due to mutations in just a few loci. In sum, the effects of the mcm4 allele in mice are recapitulated in yeast, and the aneuploidy is not required to maintain improved growth.

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