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J Cell Sci Suppl. 1994;18:19-33.

Drosophila in cancer research: the first fifty tumor suppressor genes.

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1
Developmental Biology Center, University of California, Irvine 92717.

Abstract

In Drosophila, over 50 genes have been identified in which loss-of-function mutations lead to excess cell proliferation in the embryo, in the central nervous system, imaginal discs or hematopoietic organs of the larva, or in the adult gonads. Twenty-two of these genes have been cloned and characterized at the molecular level, and nine of them show clear homology to mammalian genes. Most of these mammalian genes had not been previously implicated in cell proliferation control. Overgrowth in some of the mutants involves conversion to a cell type that, in normal development, shows more cell proliferation than the original cell type. Thus the neurogenic mutants, including Notch, show conversion of epidermal cells to neuroblasts, leading to the 'neurogenic' phenotype of excess nervous tissue. The ovarian tumor mutants show conversion of the female germ line to a cell type resembling the male germ line, which undergoes more proliferation than the female germ line. Mutations of the fat locus cause hyperplastic overgrowth of imaginal discs, in which the epithelial structure is largely intact. The predicted fat protein product is a giant relative of cadherins, supporting indications from human cancer that cadherins play an important role in tumor suppression. Mutations in the lethal(2)giant larvae and lethal(1)discs large genes cause neoplastic overgrowth of imaginal discs as well as the larval brain. The dlg gene encodes a membrane-associated guanylate kinase homolog that is localized at septate junctions between epithelial cells. This protein is a member of a family of homologs that also includes two proteins found at mammalian tight junctions (ZO-1 and ZO-2) and a protein found at mammalian synaptic junctions (PSD-95/SAP90). Genes in which mutations cause blood cell overproduction include aberrant immune response-8, which encodes the RpS6 ribosomal protein and hopscotch, which encodes a putative non-receptor protein tyrosine kinase. The gene products identified by ovarian tumor mutants do not show clear amino acid sequence homology to known proteins. Drosophila provides an opportunity to rapidly identify and characterize tumor suppressor genes, many of which have mammalian homologs that might also be involved in cell proliferation control and tumor suppression.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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