Loss of Fhit expression, encoded at chromosome fragile site FRA3B, leads to increased replication stress, genome instability and accumulation of genetic alterations. We have proposed that Fhit is a genome 'caretaker' whose loss initiates genome instability in preneoplastic lesions. We have characterized allele copy number alterations and expression changes observed in Fhit-deficient cells in conjunction with alterations in cellular proliferation and exome mutations, using cells from mouse embryo fibroblasts (MEFs), mouse kidney, early and late after establishment in culture, and in response to carcinogen treatment. Fhit-/- MEFs escape senescence to become immortal more rapidly than Fhit+/+ MEFs; -/- MEFs and kidney cultures show allele losses and gains, while +/+ derived cells show few genomic alterations. Striking alterations in expression of p53, p21, Mcl1 and active caspase 3 occurred in mouse kidney -/- cells during progressive tissue culture passage. To define genomic changes associated with preneoplastic changes in vivo, exome DNAs were sequenced for +/+ and -/- liver tissue after treatment of mice with the carcinogen, 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene, and for +/+ and -/- kidney cells treated in vitro with this carcinogen. The -/- exome DNAs, in comparison with +/+ DNA, showed small insertions, deletions and point mutations in more genes, some likely related to preneoplastic changes. Thus, Fhit loss provides a 'mutator' phenotype, a cellular environment in which mild genome instability permits clonal expansion, through proliferative advantage and escape from apoptosis, in response to pressures to survive.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
- General Agricultural and Biological Sciences