BETHESDA, MD - For the first time, scientists have publicly reported that they found a gene on chromosome 1 that's associated with an inherited form of prostate cancer in some families. The findings, released on the Internet today in the Advance Online Publication of Nature Genetics (http://www.nature.com/ng/), will be published in the February issue of the journal by researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute, Johns Hopkins Medical Institutes, the Cleveland Clinic and their collaborators.
Ever since 1992, when Johns Hopkins researchers first showed that some forms of prostate cancer could be inherited, scientists have intensely searched for specific genes that cause the disease. In 1996, NHGRI scientists, in collaboration with researchers at Johns Hopkins and in Sweden, studied 91 high-risk prostate cancer families and mapped the first hereditary susceptibility to prostate cancer to a region of chromosome 1 that they called the Hereditary Prostate Cancer 1 Region, or HPC1. Since then, these and other research teams have mapped prostate cancer susceptibly genes to two other parts of chromosome 1, as well as to chromosomes 17, 20 and X.
Now, researchers at NHGRI and Johns Hopkins have identified a specific gene -- called ribonuclease L or RNASEL - in the HPC1 region that contains mutations associated with prostate cancer in some families with a history of the disease. The scientists found mutations that inactivate the RNASEL gene. Scientists at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation have been studying RNASEL for years and have shown that it plays a role in defending cells from viruses and assists in normal cell turnover or programmed cell death. Inactivating this cellular self-destruct mechanism through genetic mutation may explain why some prostate cells become cancerous.
Mutations in this one gene, however, do not explain all forms of inherited prostate cancer, cautioned John D. Carp
Contact: Geoff Spencer
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute