During tumor evolution, cancer cells can accumulate numerous genetic alterations, ranging from single nucleotide mutations to whole-chromosomal changes. Although a great deal of progress has been made in the past decades in characterizing genomic alterations, recent cancer genome sequencing studies have provided a wealth of information on the detailed molecular profiles of such alterations in various types of cancers. Here, we review our current understanding of the mechanisms and consequences of cancer genome instability, focusing on the findings uncovered through analysis of exome and whole-genome sequencing data. These analyses have shown that most cancers have evidence of genome instability, and the degree of instability is variable within and between cancer types. Importantly, we describe some recent evidence supporting the idea that chromosomal instability could be a major driving force in tumorigenesis and cancer evolution, actively shaping the genomes of cancer cells to maximize their survival advantage. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Pathology: Mechanisms of Disease Volume 11 is May 23, 2016. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/catalog/pubdates.aspx for revised estimates.
Neuropsychiatric disorders have a complex genetic architecture. Human genetic population-based studies have identified numerous heritable sequence and structural genomic variants associated with susceptibility to neuropsychiatric disease. However, these germline variants do not fully account for disease risk. During brain development, progenitor cells undergo billions of cell divisions to generate the ~80 billion neurons in the brain. The failure to accurately repair DNA damage arising during replication, transcription, and cellular metabolism amid this dramatic cellular expansion can lead to somatic mutations. Somatic mutations that alter subsets of neuronal transcriptomes and proteomes can, in turn, affect cell proliferation and survival and lead to neurodevelopmental disorders. The long life span of individual neurons and the direct relationship between neural circuits and behavior suggest that somatic mutations in small populations of neurons can significantly affect individual neurodevelopment. The Brain Somatic Mosaicism Network has been founded to study somatic mosaicism both in neurotypical human brains and in the context of complex neuropsychiatric disorders.
Microsatellites are simple tandem repeats that are present at millions of loci in the human genome. Microsatellite instability (MSI) refers to DNA slippage events on microsatellites that occur frequently in cancer genomes when there is a defect in the DNA-mismatch repair system. These somatic mutations can result in inactivation of tumor-suppressor genes or disrupt other noncoding regulatory sequences, thereby playing a role in carcinogenesis. Here, we will discuss the ways in which high-throughput sequencing data can facilitate genome- or exome-wide discovery and more detailed investigation of MSI events in microsatellite-unstable cancer genomes. We will address the methodologic aspects of this approach and highlight insights from recent analyses of colorectal and endometrial cancer genomes from The Cancer Genome Atlas project. These include identification of novel MSI targets within and across tumor types and the relationship between the likelihood of MSI events to chromatin structure. Given the increasing popularity of exome and genome sequencing of cancer genomes, a comprehensive characterization of MSI may serve as a valuable marker of cancer evolution and aid in a search for therapeutic targets.
Array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH) is a technique for measuring chromosomal aberrations in genomic DNA. With the availability of high-resolution microarrays, detailed characterization of the cancer genome has become possible. In this review, we discuss several issues in the generation and interpretation of aCGH data, including array platforms, experimental design, and data analysis. Due to the complexity of the data, application of appropriate statistical methods is crucial for avoiding false positive findings. We also describe integration of copy number data with other types of data to identify functional significance of observed aberrations.
Males and females of many animal species differ in their sex-chromosome karyotype, and this creates imbalances between X-chromosome and autosomal gene products that require compensation. Although distinct molecular mechanisms have evolved in three highly studied systems, they all achieve coordinate regulation of an entire chromosome by differential RNA-polymerase occupancy at X-linked genes. High-throughput genome-wide methods have been pivotal in driving the latest progress in the field. Here we review the emerging models for dosage compensation in mammals, flies and nematodes, with a focus on mechanisms affecting RNA polymerase II activity on the X chromosome.
Structural variations are widespread in the human genome and can serve as genetic markers in clinical and evolutionary studies. With the advances in the next-generation sequencing technology, recent methods allow for identification of structural variations with unprecedented resolution and accuracy. They also provide opportunities to discover variants that could not be detected on conventional microarray-based platforms, such as dosage-invariant chromosomal translocations and inversions. In this review, we will describe some of the sequencing-based algorithms for detection of structural variations and discuss the key issues in future development.
The recent development of next-generation sequencing technology has enabled significant progress in chromatin structure analysis. Here, we review the experimental and bioinformatic approaches to studying nucleosome positioning and histone modification profiles on a genome scale using this technology. These studies advanced our knowledge of the nucleosome positioning patterns of both epigenetically modified and bulk nucleosomes and elucidated the role of such patterns in regulation of gene expression. The identification and analysis of large sets of nucleosome-bound DNA sequences allowed better understanding of the rules that govern nucleosome positioning in organisms of various complexity. We also discuss the existing challenges and prospects of using next-generation sequencing for nucleosome positioning analysis and outline the importance of such studies for the entire chromatin structure field.
Next-generation sequencing is poised to unleash dramatic changes in every area of molecular biology. In the past few years, chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) on tiled microarrays (ChIP-chip) has been an important tool for genome-wide mapping of DNA-binding proteins or histone modifications. Now, ChIP followed by direct sequencing of DNA fragments (ChIP-seq) offers superior data with less noise and higher resolution and is likely to replace ChIP-chip in the near future. We will describe advantages of this new technology and outline some of the issues in dealing with the data. ChIP-seq generates considerably larger quantities of data and the most challenging aspect for investigators will be computational and statistical analysis necessary to uncover biological insights hidden in the data.