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      Assessing human germ-cell mutagenesis in the Postgenome Era: A celebration of the legacy of William Lawson (Bill) Russell

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          Abstract

          Birth defects, de novo genetic diseases, and chromosomal abnormality syndromes occur in approximately 5% of all live births, and affected children suffer from a broad range of lifelong health consequences. Despite the social and medical impact of these defects, and the 8 decades of research in animal systems that have identified numerous germ-cell mutagens, no human germ-cell mutagen has been confirmed to date. There is now a growing consensus that the inability to detect human germ-cell mutagens is due to technological limitations in the detection of random mutations rather than biological differences between animal and human susceptibility. A multidisciplinary workshop responding to this challenge convened at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine. The purpose of the workshop was to assess the applicability of an emerging repertoire of genomic technologies to studies of human germ-cell mutagenesis. Workshop participants recommended large-scale human germ-cell mutation studies be conducted using samples from donors with high-dose exposures, such as cancer survivors. Within this high-risk cohort, parents and children could be evaluated for heritable changes in (a) DNA sequence and chromosomal structure, (b) repeat sequences and minisatellites, and (c) global gene expression profiles and pathways. Participants also advocated the establishment of a bio-bank of human tissue samples from donors with well-characterized exposure, including medical and reproductive histories. This mutational resource could support large-scale, multiple-endpoint studies. Additional studies could involve the examination of transgenerational effects associated with changes in imprinting and methylation patterns, nucleotide repeats, and mitochondrial DNA mutations. The further development of animal models and the integration of these with human studies are necessary to provide molecular insights into the mechanisms of germ-cell mutations and to identify prevention strategies. Furthermore, scientific specialty groups should be convened to review and prioritize the evidence for germ-cell mutagenicity from common environmental, occupational, medical, and lifestyle exposures. Workshop attendees agreed on the need for a full-scale assault to address key fundamental questions in human germ-cell environmental mutagenesis. These include, but are not limited to, the following: Do human germ-cell mutagens exist? What are the risks to future generations? Are some parents at higher risk than others for acquiring and transmitting germ-cell mutations? Obtaining answers to these, and other critical questions, will require strong support from relevant funding agencies, in addition to the engagement of scientists outside the fields of genomics and germ-cell mutagenesis.

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          Most cited references 92

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          Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM), a knowledgebase of human genes and genetic disorders

          Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM™) is a comprehensive, authoritative and timely knowledgebase of human genes and genetic disorders compiled to support human genetics research and education and the practice of clinical genetics. Started by Dr Victor A. McKusick as the definitive reference Mendelian Inheritance in Man, OMIM (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/omim/) is now distributed electronically by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, where it is integrated with the Entrez suite of databases. Derived from the biomedical literature, OMIM is written and edited at Johns Hopkins University with input from scientists and physicians around the world. Each OMIM entry has a full-text summary of a genetically determined phenotype and/or gene and has numerous links to other genetic databases such as DNA and protein sequence, PubMed references, general and locus-specific mutation databases, HUGO nomenclature, MapViewer, GeneTests, patient support groups and many others. OMIM is an easy and straightforward portal to the burgeoning information in human genetics.
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            A mitochondrial paradigm of metabolic and degenerative diseases, aging, and cancer: a dawn for evolutionary medicine.

             C. Wallace (2004)
            Life is the interplay between structure and energy, yet the role of energy deficiency in human disease has been poorly explored by modern medicine. Since the mitochondria use oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) to convert dietary calories into usable energy, generating reactive oxygen species (ROS) as a toxic by-product, I hypothesize that mitochondrial dysfunction plays a central role in a wide range of age-related disorders and various forms of cancer. Because mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is present in thousands of copies per cell and encodes essential genes for energy production, I propose that the delayed-onset and progressive course of the age-related diseases results from the accumulation of somatic mutations in the mtDNAs of post-mitotic tissues. The tissue-specific manifestations of these diseases may result from the varying energetic roles and needs of the different tissues. The variation in the individual and regional predisposition to degenerative diseases and cancer may result from the interaction of modern dietary caloric intake and ancient mitochondrial genetic polymorphisms. Therefore the mitochondria provide a direct link between our environment and our genes and the mtDNA variants that permitted our forbears to energetically adapt to their ancestral homes are influencing our health today.
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              Epigenetic transgenerational actions of endocrine disruptors and male fertility.

              Transgenerational effects of environmental toxins require either a chromosomal or epigenetic alteration in the germ line. Transient exposure of a gestating female rat during the period of gonadal sex determination to the endocrine disruptors vinclozolin (an antiandrogenic compound) or methoxychlor (an estrogenic compound) induced an adult phenotype in the F1 generation of decreased spermatogenic capacity (cell number and viability) and increased incidence of male infertility. These effects were transferred through the male germ line to nearly all males of all subsequent generations examined (that is, F1 to F4). The effects on reproduction correlate with altered DNA methylation patterns in the germ line. The ability of an environmental factor (for example, endocrine disruptor) to reprogram the germ line and to promote a transgenerational disease state has significant implications for evolutionary biology and disease etiology.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis
                Environ. Mol. Mutagen.
                Wiley
                08936692
                10982280
                March 2007
                March 2007
                2007
                : 48
                : 2
                : 71-95
                Article
                10.1002/em.20284
                2071946
                17295306
                © 2007

                http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/tdm_license_1.1

                Product
                Self URI (article page): http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/em.20284

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