The genome of chimpanzees and gorillas could help to better understand human tumours

The genome of chimpanzees and gorillas could help to better understand human tumours

News from IBE

A new study by researchers from the Institute for Evolutionary Biology (IBE: CSIC-UPF) shows that, surprisingly, the distribution of mutations in human tumours is more similar to that of chimpanzees and gorillas than that of humans.

The article, which analyses cancer from the evolutionary point of view, was led by Arcadi Navarro and David Juan and involved the researchers Txema Heredia-Genestar and Tomàs Marquès-Bonet.

Mutations are changes that occur in DNA. They are not distributed throughout the genome evenly, but some regions accumulate more and others less. Although mutations are common in healthy human cells, cancer cells display a greater number of genetic changes. During the development of cancer, tumours rapidly accumulate a large number of mutations. In previous studies, however, it had been observed that surprisingly tumours accumulate mutations in very different regions of the genome from those normally observed in humans.

Now, thanks to the data from the project PanCancer, a research team from the IBE has compared the regions of the genome that accumulate more and less mutations in tumour processes, in the recent history of the human population, and in the history of other primates. The results of this new study reveal that the distribution of mutations in tumours is more like that in chimpanzees and gorillas than in humans.


Heredia-Genestar JM; Marquès-Bonet T; Juan D; Navarro A. Extreme differences between human germline and tumor mutation densities are driven by ancestral human-specific deviations. Nature Communications, May 2020. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-16296-4

More information:
IBE website
DCEXS-UPF website