Myc's Global Reach

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Science  16 May 2003:
Vol. 300, Issue 5622, pp. 1055
DOI: 10.1126/science.300.5622.1055d

Myc is an oncogenic transcription factor that contributes to more than 70,000 deaths annually in the United States. When expressed inappropriately, Myc causes uncontrolled cell proliferation, but the precise mechanism by which this occurs remains unclear. An early hypothesis that Myc regulates a small number of target genes crucial to cell cycle control has been called into question by recent gene expression profiling indicating that Myc affects the transcription of several hundred genes.

Genome-wide analyses of Myc binding sites by Orian et al. and Fernandez et al. are consistent with the revisionist view that Myc regulates the expression of a large and diverse set of target genes. Using different strategies and different organisms (fruit fly and human, respectively), the two groups independently conclude that Myc binds to several thousand coding sequences—or about 10% of all cellular genes. These surprising results raise the possibility that Myc malfunction may cause cancer through perturbation of multiple metabolic pathways in the cell—a hypothesis that will interest systems biologists.—PAK

Genes Dev. 17, 1101; 1115 (2003).

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