Junk DNA plays active role in cancer
4 June 2013
A human gene sequence until recently considered ‘junk' could
promote cancer progression, according to research at the University
The researchers discovered that the presence of this faulty
genetic element — known as chimeric transcript LCT13 — is associated
with the switching off of a known tumour suppressor gene (known as
TFPI-2) whose expression is required to prevent cancer invasion and
metastasis. Their findings have been published in the journal
Nucleic Acid Research.
This faulty genetic element was previously identified by the team
as part of a group of chimeric transcripts which are produced by DNA
sequences frequently regarded as junk DNA called LINE-1 (L1).
This research expands on the previous observation as it indicates
that in addition to acting as potential diagnostic tools these rogue
elements can play an active role in cancer.
Dr Tufarelli said: “This study has identified a novel way in
which ‘junk DNA’ can interfere with the normal functioning of a
cell. The next step will be to understand how these elements become
switched on. This information will be important in the design of
treatments aimed to prevent activation of these elements and cancer
The work was initiated through funding by Cancer Research UK, the
Royal Society, MRC and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
Cruickshanks HA. Expression of a large LINE-1-driven antisense
RNA is linked to epigenetic silencing of the metastasis suppressor
gene TFPI-2 in cancer. Nucl. Acids Res. 2013. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkt438