Highly Recurrent TERT Promoter Mutations in Human Melanoma

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Science  22 Feb 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6122, pp. 957-959
DOI: 10.1126/science.1229259

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Promoter Mutations and Cancer

Cancer genome sequencing projects have highlighted the pathogenic role of recurrent mutations within the protein-coding regions of genes. Now, two studies suggest that the scope of mutations in human tumors extends to gene regulatory regions. In a study of 70 melanomas, Huang et al. (p. 957, published online 24 January) found that 71% harbored one of two specific mutations in the promoter region of TERT, the gene coding for the catalytic subunit of telomerase, the enzyme that caps chromosome ends. Independently, Horn et al. (p. 959, published online 24 January) identified a disease-segregating germline mutation in the TERT promoter in a family predisposed to melanoma and found additional TERT promoter mutations in a high percentage of sporadic melanomas and melanoma cell lines. The mutations in both studies generated new binding sites for specific transcription factors and, in reporter assays, caused an increase in transcription.