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April 28, 2021

10am Zoom Webinar

Vincent Lynch
State University of New York

" On the (im)possibility of elephants "

The risk of developing cancer is correlated with body size and lifespan within species. Between species, however, there is no correlation between cancer and either body size or lifespan, indicating that large, long-lived species have evolved enhanced cancer protection mechanisms. Elephants and their relatives (Proboscideans) are a particularly interesting lineage for the exploration of mechanisms underlying the evolution of augmented cancer resistance because they evolved large bodies recently within a clade of smaller bodied species (Afrotherians). Here, we explore the contribution of gene duplication to body size and cancer risk in Afrotherians. Through comparative genomics we identified a duplicate SOD1 gene Proboscideans that we functionally characterize and show may underlie some aspects of their remarkable anti-cancer cell biology. These data suggest that duplication of tumor suppressor genes facilitated the evolution of increased body size by compensating for decreasing intrinsic cancer risk.

Host: Karen Sears