A tumor suppressor gene, or anti-oncogene, is a gene that protects a cell from one step on the path to cancer. When this gene is mutated to cause a loss or reduction in its function, the cell can progress to cancer, usually in combination with other genetic changes.
Unlike oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes generally follow the 'two-hit hypothesis', which implies that both alleles that code for a particular gene must be affected before an effect is manifested. This is due to the fact that if only one allele for the gene is damaged, the second can still produce the correct protein. In other words, mutant tumor suppressors alleles are usually recessive whereas mutant oncogene alleles are typically dominant. The two-hit hypothesis was first proposed by A.G. Knudson for cases of retinoblastoma. Knudson observed that the age of onset of retinoblastoma followed 2nd order kinetics, implying that two independent genetic events were necessary. He recognized that this was consistent with a recessive mutation involving a single gene, but requiring biallelic mutation. Oncogene mutations, in contrast, generally involve a single allele because they are gain of function mutations. There are notable exceptions to the 'two-hit' rule for tumor suppressors, such as certain mutations in the p53 gene product. p53 mutations can function as a 'dominant negative', meaning that a mutated p53 protein can prevent the function of normal protein from the un-mutated allele. Other tumor-suppressor genes that are exceptions to the 'two-hit' rule are those that exhibit haploinsufficiency for example PTCH in medulloblastoma. An example of this is the p27Kip1 cell-cycle inhibitor, in which mutation of a single allele causes increased carcinogen susceptibility.
Tumor-suppressor genes, or more precisely, the proteins for which they code, either have a dampening or repressive effect on the regulation of the cell cycle or promote apoptosis, and sometimes do both. The functions of tumor-suppressor proteins fall into several categories including the following:
The first tumor-suppressor protein discovered was the Retinoblastoma protein (pRb) in human retinoblastoma; however, recent evidence has also implicated pRb as a tumor-survival factor.
Full article ▸