Cancer reduces transcriptome specialization

Octavio Martínez, M. Humberto Reyes-Valdés, Luis Herrera-Estrella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


A central goal of cancer biology is to understand how cells from this family of genetic diseases undergo specific morphological and physiological changes and regress to a de-regulated state of the cell cycle. The fact that tumors are unable to perform most of the specific functions of the original tissue led us to hypothesize that the degree of specialization of the transcriptome of cancerous tissues must be less than their normal counterparts. With the aid of information theory tools, we analyzed four datasets derived from transcriptomes of normal and tumor tissues to quantitatively test the hypothesis that cancer reduces transcriptome specialization. Here, we show that the transcriptional specialization of a tumor is significantly less than the corresponding normal tissue and comparable with the specialization of dedifferentiated embryonic stem cells. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the drop in specialization in cancerous tissues is largely due to a decrease in expression of genes that are highly specific to the normal organ. This approach gives us a better understanding of carcinogenesis and offers new tools for the identification of genes that are highly influential in cancer progression.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere10398
JournalPloS one
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2010


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