Chromosomal breakpoint positions suggest a direct role for radiation in inducing illegitimate recombination between the ELE1 and RET genes in radiation-induced thyroid carcinomas
Chromosomes, Human, Pair 10
Chromosomes, Human, Pair 18
Radioactive Hazard Release
The RET/PTC3 rearrangement is formed by fusion of the ELE1 and RET genes, and is highly prevalent in radiation-induced post-Chernobyl papillary thyroid carcinomas. We characterized the breakpoints in the ELE1 and RET genes in 12 post-Chernobyl pediatric papillary carcinomas with known RET/PTC3 rearrangement. We found that the breakpoints within each intron were distributed in a relatively random fashion, except for clustering in the Alu regions of ELE1. None of the breakpoints occurred at the same base or within a similar sequence. There was also no evidence of preferential cleavage in AT-rich regions or other target DNA sites implicated in illegitimate recombination in mammalian cells. Modification of sequences at the cleavage sites was minimal, typically involving a 1-3 nucleotide deletion and/or duplication. Surprisingly, the alignment of ELE1 and RET introns in opposite orientation revealed that in each tumor the position of the break in one gene corresponded to the position of the break in the other gene. This tendency suggests that the two genes may lie next to each other but point in opposite directions in the nucleus. Such a structure would facilitate formation of RET/PTC3 rearrangements because a single radiation track could produce concerted breaks in both genes, leading to inversion due to reciprocal exchange via end-joining.