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The Evolution of Cancer-Related Genes in Hominoids

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The evolution of cancer suppression is essential for the maintenance of multicellularity. The lack of correlation between body size and cancer risk across species, known as Peto’s paradox, suggests that genetic variation in cancer resistance is sufficient to compensate for increases of cell numbers in bigger animals. To assess evolutionary dynamics of cancer-related genes, we analyzed Ka, Ks,and Ka/Ks values in 120 oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes (TSG) among seven hominoid species, including two extinct species, Neanderthal and Denisovan. Ka/Ks of tumor suppressor genes tended to be higher relative to that of oncogenes, consistent with relaxed purifying selection acting on the former. Ka/Ks values were positively correlated with TSG scores, but negatively correlated with oncogene scores, suggesting opposing selection pressures operating on the two groups of cancer-related genes. Additionally, we found 108 species-divergent substitutions that were prevalent germline genotypes in some species but in humans appeared only as somatic cancerous mutations. Better understanding the resistance to cancer may lead to new methods of cancer prevention in humans.

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Correspondence to Pawel Michalak.

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Kang, L., Michalak, P. The Evolution of Cancer-Related Genes in Hominoids. J Mol Evol 80, 37–41 (2015).

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