Identification Of Metastasisrelated Genes

The concept of metastasis-associated genes was launched in the early 1970s but was advocated aggressively after a decade. Metastasis promoting genes were identified as genes that promote breast tumor aggressiveness, this included invasion and migration. However successful colonization at the secondary site (that will lead to macroscopic metastasis) was only discernable using xenograft studies or mouse mammary tumor model studies. On the other hand search for metastasis suppressing genes had started in mid- to late 1980s and the field really flourished at the turn of the millennium (7, 8).

There are several innovative tools and tricks used for the gene identification.

1. The more traditional approach compared cell lines that differ in metastatic potential using karyotyping to look for additions/ deletions/translocations. These techniques point to a locus or a region on a chromosome that bears a metastasis-related gene. However there is a very involved discovery process for the identification of the exact gene.

2. A more recent approach is to monitor differential gene expression using differential display or subtractive hybridization.

3. Contemporary methods involve the use of recently developed microarray technologies. The success is limited due to the vast amount of data obtained and false positives.

Also needless to say that differential gene expression is not the only way to regulate gene function, posttranslational modifications such as phosphorylation, glycosylation, acetylation, etc. have significant contributions and these are apparent with the advent of modern proteomic techniques.

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