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Ectopic Expression of Germline Genes Drives Malignant Brain Tumor Growth in Drosophila

Science  24 Dec 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6012, pp. 1824-1827
DOI: 10.1126/science.1195481

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Abstract

Model organisms such as the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster can help to elucidate the molecular basis of complex diseases such as cancer. Mutations in the Drosophila gene lethal (3) malignant brain tumor cause malignant growth in the larval brain. Here we show that l(3)mbt tumors exhibited a soma-to-germline transformation through the ectopic expression of genes normally required for germline stemness, fitness, or longevity. Orthologs of some of these genes were also expressed in human somatic tumors. In addition, inactivation of any of the germline genes nanos, vasa, piwi, or aubergine suppressed l(3)mbt malignant growth. Our results demonstrate that germline traits are necessary for tumor growth in this Drosophila model and suggest that inactivation of germline genes might have tumor-suppressing effects in other species.

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