Increased tumor-suppressor-gene penetrance in DES offspring

Interaction between genetic susceptibility and early-life environmental exposure determines tumor-suppressor-gene penetrance

2005 Study Key Points

  • Reproductive Tracts of Eker Rats Exhibit Hormonal Imprinting in Response to Developmental Exposure to Xenoestrogen
  • Tsc-2 Tumor-Suppressor-Gene Penetrance Is Increased in Animals in Response to Hormonal Imprinting
  • Developmental DES exposure increases tumor incidence, multiplicity, and size in genetically susceptible animals
  • Developmental Programming Enhances the Estrogen-Responsiveness of Target Tissues to Increase Tumor-Suppressor-Gene Penetrance

Study Abstract

Gene–environment interactions are important determinants of cancer risk. Traditionally, gene–environment interactions are thought to contribute to tumor-suppressor-gene penetrance by facilitating or inhibiting the acquisition of additional somatic mutations required for tumorigenesis.

Here, we demonstrate that a distinctive type of gene–environment interaction can occur during development to enhance the penetrance of a tumor-suppressor-gene defect in the adult.

Using rats carrying a germ-line defect in the tuberous sclerosis complex 2 (Tsc-2) tumor-suppressor gene predisposed to uterine leiomyomas, we show that an early-life exposure to diethylstilbestrol during development of the uterus increased tumor-suppressor-gene penetrance from 65% to >90% and tumor multiplicity and size in genetically predisposed animals, but it failed to induce tumors in wild-type rats.

This exposure was shown to impart a hormonal imprint on the developing uterine myometrium, causing an increase in expression of estrogen-responsive genes before the onset of tumors. Loss of function of the normal Tsc-2 allele remained the rate-limiting event for tumorigenesis; however, tumors that developed in exposed animals displayed an enhanced proliferative response to steroid hormones relative to tumors that developed in unexposed animals.

These data suggest that exposure to environmental factors during development can permanently reprogram normal physiological tissue responses and thus lead to increased tumor-suppressor-gene penetrance in genetically susceptible individuals.

Sources and more information
  • Full study (free access) Interaction between genetic susceptibility and early-life environmental exposure determines tumor-suppressor-gene penetrance, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, PMC1150843, 2005 Jun 14.
  • Effects of neonatal DES exposure on uterine morphology featured image credit sciencedirect.

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