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DNA Helix

New journal shows half-broken gene is enough to cause cancer

Josh: So while this research is very interesting, I would first like to call attention to biologists’ odd sense of humor. Apparently, SMAD4 stands for “Mothers against decapentaplegic homolog 4″. This is obviously some type of a joke made from MADD, but the bizarre sense of humor doesn’t stop here. Who can forget the signaling molecule Sonic Hedgehog (SHH), bride of sevenless (BOSS), frizzled, dishevelled, amongst many others that are escaping me at the moment.

Tumour suppressor genes do not necessarily require both alleles to be knocked out before disease phenotypes are expressed. Research published in BioMed Central’s new open access journal PathoGenetics reveals that only one allele of SMAD4 has to be damaged to put a person at risk of pancreatic and colorectal cancer.

Riccardo Fodde led a team of researchers from Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, who investigated SMAD4, a tumor suppressor gene implicated in pancreatic and colorectal cancer. They found that having one mutated SMAD4 allele was associated with the development of gastrointestinal polyps. This research is the first to address the molecular and cellular consequences of SMAD4 damage on a genome-wide scale.

This high quality research is typical of that which will be published in PathoGenetics, an open access journal created to meet the need for a resource focused solely on the pathogenesis of genetic diseases. The journal’s co-Editors in Chief are Professor Stylianos Antonarakis and Professor Andrea Ballabio. Ballabio said, “PathoGenetics will give scientists a unique opportunity to publish exciting research on the molecular mechanisms underlying the manifestations of disease phenotype”.

PathoGenetics will focus on both in vitro and in vivo studies on the cascade of events leading from gene mutations or genomic rearrangement to disease. The discovery of novel molecular and metabolic pathways relevant to disease pathogenesis will be given specific emphasis. The first issue includes a review by James Lupski and colleagues that deals with mechanisms for human genomic rearrangements and a groundbreaking piece on the methodology of knock-in vector construction by Nicholas Hastie and colleagues. According to Antonarakis, “Given its unique characteristics, PathoGenetics is likely to become the ideal journal for scientists from different backgrounds to publish and read exciting research on disease pathogenesis”.

Source: BioMed Central

Smad4 haploinsufficiency: a matter of dosage. Paola Alberici, Claudia Gaspar, Patrick Franken, Marcin M Gorski, Ingrid de Vries, Rodney J Scott, Ari Ristimäki, Lauri A Aaltonen, Riccardo Fodde. PathoGenetics 2008, 1:2 (3 November 2008)

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