It has been suggested that common fragile sites (cFSs) are related to cancer development. This appears to be the case for FRA3B and FRA16D, localized in two tumor-suppressor genes (FHIT and WWOX, respectively) that are altered by deletions or loss of heterozygosity (LOH) in many cancers. The features responsible for fragility have not yet been identified. Furthermore, it is still unclear whether instability at these regions causes chance deletions and loss of function of the associated genes, or whether the gene function itself is related to the appearance of fragility. In this study, we analyzed cFS expression in lymphocytes from 20 healthy or thyroid cancer-affected subjects exposed to radiation after the Chernobyl accident. The same cells were examined for apoptosis, a principal function of both the FHIT and WWOX genes. Exceptionally elevated chromosome fragility was observed, particularly in cancer patients, affecting FRA3B, FRA16D, and a cluster of less highly expressed cFSs; levels of chromosome fragility were found to be correlated among these cFSs. Interestingly, most expressed cFSs were sites of LOH reported for thyroid tumors; moreover, cells with the highest fragility also had a reduced ability to undergo apoptosis. These findings reveal previously unknown genetic interactions affecting fragile loci, suggestive of a shared function inside mitotic cells. Attenuation of checkpoint control and apoptosis resistance seem to be the cell phenotypes associated with unusual chromosome fragility. We propose that breakage at specific cFS could derive from early epigenetic events at loci involved in radiation carcinogenesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research