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Nature. 1983 Jul 21-27;304(5923):219-26.

Retroviral transforming genes in normal cells?


The hallmark of retroviral transforming genes (onc genes) are specific sequences which are unrelated to essential virion genes but are closely related to sequences in normal cells. Viral onc genes probably originated from rare transductions of these cellular sequences by retroviruses without onc genes. Consequently, it has been suggested that retroviral transforming genes are present in normal cells in a latent form. However, recent structural analyses indicate that viral onc genes and cellular genes, which share specific sequences, are not isogenic. They differ from each other in scattered point mutations and in unique coding regions. The cellular genes containing onc-related sequences are expressed in normal cells compatible with a normal function. There is as yet no functional or consistent circumstantial evidence that these cellular genes cause cancer in animals that are not infected by viruses with onc genes. Therefore, it is still uncertain whether the onc-related cellular genes have oncogenic potential beyond their role as progenitors of retroviral onc genes.

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