NIH Press Release
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences

Thursday, July 31, 1997
John Peterson
(919) 541-7860
Tom Hawkins
(919) 541-1402

NIEHS Shortcut Isolates and Clones BRCA2 Gene in Yeast;
Success Leads to Establishment of Gene Isolation Unit

A team of U.S. and visiting Russian scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences reported today it has used its new "shortcut" means of isolating and cloning genes in common yeast to make quick duplicates of the breast cancer gene BRCA2.

The scientists said the BRCA2 gene -- the second gene for breast cancer to be discovered -- can be cloned in about two weeks by the new method, compared to previous approaches that typically took a year.

By providing a quick and endless supply of clones of the gene, the new method will enable scientists to study mutant and normal forms of the gene and will "greatly facilitate analysis of the gene and its contribution to breast cancer," diagnosis and gene therapy -- the use of genes to modify or cure disease -- according to the authors, writing in the July 1997 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Vol. 94, pp 7384-7387).

The same journal last year published the team's report of their initial development of the gene isolation and cloning system, known as Transformation-Associated Recombination in Yeast, or TAR for short.

According to the new report, the TAR system has already proven successful for quickly isolating and cloning key disease genes such as the first-discovered breast cancer gene, BRCA1, as well as BRCA2; HPRT, a gene involved in Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, a form of retardation; and rDNA, genes involved in enzyme production.

Michael Resnick, Ph.D., of NIEHS, said the institute, which is a part of the National Institutes of Health, is establishing a Gene Isolation Unit in its Laboratory of Molecular Genetics to exploit the capabilities of the TAR system.

The approach was developed in the NIEHS Chromosome Stability Group by Dr. Resnick in collaboration with two visiting Russian scientists, Vladimer Larionov, Ph.D., and Natasha Kouprina, Ph.D., who are on leave from the Institute of Cytology in St. Petersburg. Dr. Larionov has been named to head the new Gene Isolation Unit within the Resnick lab.

Also collaborating on the isolation of the BRCA2 gene and coauthoring the article were J. Carl Barrett, Ph.D., NIEHS Scientific Director and Chief of the Laboratory of Molecular Carcinogenesis, and Gregory Solomon of this laboratory.

NIEHS scientists made key discoveries in 1994-95 leading to the identification of the first breast cancer gene, BRCA1, and participated in the successful identification of BRCA2 as well.