Identification of putative cancer genes through data integration and comparative genomics between plants and humans.

Coordination of cell division with growth and development is essential for the survival of organisms. Mistakes made during replication of genetic material can result in cell death, growth defects, or cancer. Because of the essential role of the molecular machinery that controls DNA replication and mitosis during development, its high degree of conservation among organisms is not surprising. Mammalian cell cycle genes have orthologues in plants, and vice versa. However, besides the many known and characterized proliferation genes, still undiscovered regulatory genes are expected to exist with conserved functions in plants and humans. Starting from genome-wide Arabidopsis thaliana microarray data, an integrative strategy based on coexpression, functional enrichment analysis, and cis-regulatory element annotation was combined with a comparative genomics approach between plants and humans to detect conserved cell cycle genes involved in DNA replication and/or DNA repair. With this systemic strategy, a set of 339 genes was identified as potentially conserved proliferation genes. Experimental analysis confirmed that 20 out of 40 selected genes had an impact on plant cell proliferation; likewise, an evolutionarily conserved role in cell division was corroborated for two human orthologues. Moreover, association analysis integrating Homo sapiens gene expression data with clinical information revealed that, for 45 genes, altered transcript levels and relapse risk clearly correlated. Our results illustrate how a systematic exploration of the A. thaliana genome can contribute to the experimental identification of new cell cycle regulators that might represent novel oncogenes or/and tumor suppressors.

Quimbaya, M., Vandepoele, K., Raspe, E., Matthijs, M., Dhondt, S., Beemster, G.T.S., Berx, G., De Veylder, L. (2012) Identification of putative cancer genes through data integration and comparative genomics between plants and humans. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 69(12):2041-55.

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