The intestinal epithelium and its neoplasms: Genetic, cellular and tissue interactions

William F. Dove, Robert T. Cormier, Karen A. Gould, Richard B. Halberg, Anita J. Merritt, Michael A. Newton, Alexander R. Shoemaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


The Min (multiple intestinal neoplasia) strain of the laboratory mouse and its derivatives permit the fundamental study of factors that regulate the transition between normal and neoplastic growth. A gene of central importance in mediating these alternative patterns of growth is Apc, the mouse homologue of the human adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) gene. When adenomas form in the Min mouse, both copies of the Apc gene must be inactivated. One copy is mutated by the nonsense Apc allele carried in heterozygous form in this strain. The other copy can be silenced by any of several mechanisms. These range from loss of the homologue bearing the wild-type Apc allele; to interstitial deletions surrounding the wild-type allele; to intragenic mutation, including nonsense alleles; and finally, to a reduction in expression of the locus, perhaps owing to mutation in a regulatory locus. Each of these proposed mechanisms may constitute a two-hit genetic process as initially posited by Knudson; however, apparently the two hits could involve either a single locus or two loci. The kinetic order for the transition to adenoma may be still higher than two, if polyclonal adenomas require stronger interactions than passive fusion. The severity of the intestinal neoplastic phenotype of the Min mouse is strongly dependent upon loci other than Apc. One of these, Mom1, has now been rigorously identified at the molecular level as encoding an active resistance conferred by a secretory phospholipase. Mom1 acts locally within a crypt lineage, not systemically. Within the crypt lineage, however, its action seems to be non-autonomous: when tumours arise in Moral heterozygotes, the active resistance allele is maintained in the tumour (MOH or maintenance of heterozygosity). Indeed, the secretory phospholipase is synthesized by post-mitotic Paneth cells, not by the proliferative cells that presumably generate the tumour. An analysis of autonomy of modifier gene action in chimeric mice deserves detailed attention both to the number of genetic factors for which an animal is chimeric and to the clonal structure of the tissue in question. Beyond Mom1, other loci can strongly modify the severity of the Min phenotype. An emergent challenge is to find ways to identify the full set of genes that interact with the intestinal cancer predisposition of the Min mouse strain. With such a set, one can then work, using contemporary mouse genetics, to identify the molecular, cellular and organismal strategies that integrate their functions. Finally, with appropriately phenotyped human families, one can investigate by a candidate approach which modifying factors influence the epidemiology of human colon cancer. Even if a candidate modifier does not explain any of the genetic epidemiology of colon cancer in human populations, modifier activities discovered by mouse genetics provide candidates for chemopreventive and/or therapeutic modalities in the human.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)915-923
Number of pages9
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1370
StatePublished - Jun 29 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • APC/Apc
  • Cancer genetics
  • Clonality
  • Knudson hypothesis
  • Min mouse
  • Mom1 modifier locus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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