Cancer and meiotic gene expression: Two sides of the same coin?

Ieng Fong Sou, Geert Hamer, Wee-Wei Tee, Gerben Vader, Urszula Lucja McClurg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Meiosis increases genetic diversity in offspring by generating genetically unique haploid gametes with reshuffled chromosomes. This process requires a specialized set of meiotic proteins, which facilitate chromosome recombination and segregation. However, re-expression of meiotic proteins in mitosis can have catastrophic oncogenic consequences and aberrant expression of meiotic proteins is a common occurrence in human tumors. Mechanistically, re-activation of meiotic genes in cancer promotes oncogenesis likely because cancers-conversely to healthy mitosis-are fueled by genetic instability which promotes tumor evolution, and evasion of immune response and treatment pressure. In this review, we explore similarities between meiotic and cancer cells with a particular focus on the oncogenic activation of meiotic genes in cancer. We emphasize the role of histones and their modifications, DNA methylation, genome organization, R-loops and the availability of distal enhancers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-68
Number of pages26
JournalCurrent topics in developmental biology
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Humans
  • Meiosis/genetics
  • Chromosomes
  • Histones/genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • Neoplasms/genetics


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