Most tissues in metazoans undergo continuous turnover due to cell death or epithelial shedding. Since cellular replication is associated with an inherent risk of mutagenesis, tissues are maintained by a small group of stem cells (SCs) that replicate slowly to maintain their own population and that give rise to differentiated cells. There is increasing evidence that many tumors are also maintained by a small population of cancer stem cells that may arise by mutations from normal SCs. SC replication can be either symmetric or asymmetric. The former can lead to expansion of the SC pool. We describe a simple model to evaluate the impact of (a)symmetric SC replication on the expansion of mutant SCs and to show that mutations that increase the probability of asymmetric replication can lead to rapid mutant SC expansion in the absence of a selective fitness advantage. Mutations in several genes can lead to this process and may be at the root of the carcinogenic process.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Modeling and Simulation
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Computational Theory and Mathematics