An introduction to genes, genomes and disease.
Hall PA., Reis-Filho JS., Tomlinson IP., Poulsom R.
The human and other genome projects and subsequent resequencing programmes have provided new perspectives on the nature of the gene and how genes function. Understanding the complexity of the eukaryotic nucleus and the diversity of genetic regulatory mechanisms, including the role of non-coding RNAs, translational control mechanisms and the extraordinary prevalence of splicing, will be central to understanding how genes function, as will the recognition of gene dosage issues. This introduction to the 2010 Annual Review Issue, Genes, Genomes and Disease, provides overviews of these areas and then considers their relevance to a range of human diseases, including cardiovascular and renal disease, neural tube defects and cancer. The p53 gene is considered as an example of a massively regulated gene and the genetic perturbations in cancer are considered in a historical perspective. High-throughput genomic and transcriptomic methods have led to a paradigm shift in the way cancers are perceived and have changed the way translational research is performed. The progress in our understanding of chromosomal rearrangements in cancer, once believed to be incredibly rare events in epithelial malignancies, is discussed. The identification of low-penetrance cancer susceptibility genes through genome-wide association studies and their implications are reviewed. The contribution and limitations of expression profiling are discussed. In the last series of reviews, future challenges are addressed: the promise of synthetic lethality strategies in cancer therapy, a case for 'systems' approaches to genetic networks and the potential of single molecule genetic technologies. Finally, the question 'Does massively parallel DNA resequencing signify the end of histopathology as we know it?' is posed. Readers should find that the 2010 Annual Review Issue is an invaluable resource on contemporary genetics and its applications to understanding disease.