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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2012 Sep;1267:79-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2012.06614.x.

Creative deaminases, self-inflicted damage, and genome evolution.

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Core Research Laboratory, Istituto Toscano Tumori, Florence, Italy.


Organisms minimize genetic damage through complex pathways of DNA repair. Yet a gene family--the AID/APOBECs--has evolved in vertebrates with the sole purpose of producing targeted damage in DNA/RNA molecules through cytosine deamination. They likely originated from deaminases involved in A>I editing in tRNAs. AID, the archetypal AID/APOBEC, is the trigger of the somatic diversification processes of the antibody genes. Its homologs may have been associated with the immune system even before the evolution of the antibody genes. The APOBEC3s, arising from duplication of AID, are involved in the restriction of exogenous/endogenous threats such as retroviruses and mobile elements. Another family member, APOBEC1, has (re)acquired the ability to target RNA while maintaining its ability to act on DNA. The AID/APOBECs have shaped the evolution of vertebrate genomes, but their ability to mutate nucleic acids is a double-edged sword: AID is a key player in lymphoproliferative diseases by triggering mutations and chromosomal translocations in B cells, and there is increasing evidence suggesting that other AID/APOBECs could be involved in cancer development as well.

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