Bacterial DNA may integrate into the human genome more readily in tumors than in normal human tissue, according to a new study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Institute for Genome Sciences. Researchers analyzed genomic sequencing data available from the Human Genome Project, the 1,000 Genomes Project and The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). They considered the phenomenon of lateral gene transfer (LGT), the transmission of genetic material between organisms in the absence of sex.
Scientists have already shown that bacteria can transfer DNA to the genome of an animal. The researchers at the University of Maryland Institute for Genome Sciences found evidence that lateral gene transfer is possible from bacteria to the cells of the human body, known as human somatic cells. They found the bacterial DNA was more likely to integrate in the genome in tumor samples than in normal, healthy somatic cells. The phenomenon might play a role in cancer and other diseases associated with DNA damage. The paper was published in PLOS Computational Biology on June 20.
"LGT from bacteria to animals was only described recently, and it is exciting to find that such transfers can be found in the genome of human somatic cells and particularly in cancer genomes," says Julie C. Dunning Hotopp, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at the Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS) at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and lead author on the paper. Dr. Hotopp also is a research scientist with the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center. "Studies applying this approach to additional cancer genome projects could be fruitful, leading us to a better understanding of the mechanisms of cancer."
In the research, a team of interdisciplinary scientists and bioinformatics researchers found that while only 63.5% of TCGA samples analyzed were from tumors, the tumor samples contained 99.9% of reads supp
|Contact: Karen Robinson|
University of Maryland Medical Center