Genetic fusions favor tumorigenesis through degron loss in oncogenes

Jing Liu, Collin Tokheim, Jonathan D. Lee, Wenjian Gan, Brian J. North, X. Shirley Liu, Pier Paolo Pandolfi, Wenyi Wei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Chromosomal rearrangements can generate genetic fusions composed of two distinct gene sequences, many of which have been implicated in tumorigenesis and progression. Our study proposes a model whereby oncogenic gene fusions frequently alter the protein stability of the resulting fusion products, via exchanging protein degradation signal (degron) between gene sequences. Computational analyses of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) identify 2,406 cases of degron exchange events and reveal an enrichment of oncogene stabilization due to loss of degrons from fusion. Furthermore, we identify and experimentally validate that some recurrent fusions, such as BCR-ABL, CCDC6-RET and PML-RARA fusions, perturb protein stability by exchanging internal degrons. Likewise, we also validate that EGFR or RAF1 fusions can be stabilized by losing a computationally-predicted C-terminal degron. Thus, complementary to enhanced oncogene transcription via promoter swapping, our model of degron loss illustrates another general mechanism for recurrent fusion proteins in driving tumorigenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6704
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • General
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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