A single genetic mutation made people extra prone to most cancers

Since we break up from chimpanzees, a single letter change in our DNA seems to have made us extra prone to get most cancers, probably as a trade-off for additional fertility


3 May 2022

Molecule of DNA, double helix, 3D illustration. Genetic mutation and genetic disorders

An illustration of DNA molecules


A tiny change in our DNA that occurred after we advanced away from different primates has made us extra liable to getting most cancers, new analysis suggests.

Cancer is comparatively uncommon in different primates. For instance, autopsies of 971 non-human primates that died at Philadelphia Zoo in Pennsylvania between 1901 and 1932 discovered that solely eight had tumours.

To study why we’re extra prone to most cancers, Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and her colleagues in contrast a whole bunch of genes between people and 12 non-human primate species.

They found that we now have advanced a barely completely different model of a gene known as BRCA2 since we break up from chimpanzees.

BRCA2 is named a tumour suppressor gene as a result of it’s concerned in DNA restore. However, the researchers discovered {that a} single DNA letter change within the human BRCA2 gene has made it 20 per cent worse at repairing DNA in contrast with different primate variations of the gene, which might clarify our increased most cancers charges.

The discovering provides to present data concerning the position of BRCA2 in human most cancers. For instance, we all know that folks with sure variants of the BRCA2 gene that suppress its restore actions additional have even higher danger of creating most cancers, significantly breast and ovarian cancers.

At this stage, we don’t know why BRCA2 has advanced to turn out to be much less energetic in people than in different primates, says Iacobuzio-Donahue. One chance is that diminished BRCA2 exercise has been chosen for in people to reinforce fertility, since analysis exhibits that ladies with BRCA2 variants linked to most cancers appear to turn out to be pregnant extra simply, she says.

If so, this fertility enhance might have come at the price of increased most cancers charges, she provides.

The discovery {that a} single mutation within the BRCA2 gene could possibly be a serious reason behind human most cancers may result in new therapies, says Iacobuzio-Donahue.

For instance, though gene enhancing in people is a great distance off, we might in principle rewrite our BRCA2 gene to make it extra like non-human primate variations which can be related to decrease most cancers charges, she says.

Journal reference: Cell Reports, DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2022.110771

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