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J Pathol. 2010 Jan;220(2):174-85. doi: 10.1002/path.2623.

Dominance and gene dosage balance in health and disease: why levels matter!

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Institut Jacques Monod, CNRS-UMR 7592, B√Ętiment Buffon, Paris Cedex 13, France.


The classical concept of genetic dominance is a simplification of a more quantitative reality. This is clearly exemplified by aneuploid syndromes, of which the best known case is trisomy 21. Moreover, there is an increasing number of clinical conditions due to reduced dosage (haploinsufficiency) of genes encoding transcription factors and other proteins involved in signal transduction and macromolecular complexes. In such genetic diseases, a high degree of phenotypic variability is observed, which calls for an explanation. The sources of dominance are heterogeneous and difficult to cover in a brief review. Here, we will focus on the molecular bases of dosage-sensitive syndromes from the perspective of the gene dosage balance hypothesis, which postulates that stoichiometric alterations of macromolecular complexes or cellular networks are responsible for dominant phenotypes, because of the existing non-linear relationships between the genotypic and phenotypic values with which they are associated.

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