An international team of scientists report the discovery of 480 genes that play a role in human cell division. Furthermore, they identified more than 100 of those genes that have an abnormal pattern of activation in cancer cells.
The genes found to be deregulated in cancer cells include PER2 and HOXA9 that already have been linked to cancer. Other previously unknown genes discover included at least three genes responsible for repairing genetic mutations that occur as DNA is duplicated in the cell.
Previous studies of cell cycle genes in have been flawed or invalid, because cell development must be arrested, so that gene expression can be measured at each stage of the cycle, according to the investigators. When the cells are released from arrest, they explain, some don’t resume cycling at all, while others resume at different intervals. The result is that the cells end up scattered among different stages of the cell cycle.
Using a computer science method called deconvolution, the research team arrested and released cells in culture and then measured DNA content to determine which ones had stopped cycling and which ones were at various stages of the cell cycle. This information was used to construct a model of cell behavior that could be used to reanalyze the gene expression data, enabling the scientists to combine expression data from cells that are all at the same stage of the cell cycle.
Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Hebrew University, the German Cancer Research Center, and New York University School of Medicine were involved in this study. The findings will be reported in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science during the week of January 7.