Genomic and Molecular Maps of Stemness and Malignant Regulatory Signatures
Repetitive DNA sequences (repeats) colonized two-third of human genomes and a majority of repeats comprised of transposable genetic elements (TE). Evolutionary distinct categories of TE represent nucleic acid sequences that are repeatedly copied from and pasted into chromosomes at multiple genomic locations and acquired a multitude of regulatory functions. Here, genomics-guided maps of stemness regulatory signatures were drawn to dissect the contribution of TE to clinical manifestations of malignant phenotypes of human cancers. From patients’ and physicians’ perspectives, the clinical definition of a tumor’s malignant phenotype could be restricted to the early diagnosis of sub-types of malignancies with the increased risk of existing therapy failure and high likelihood of death from cancer. It is the viewpoint from which the understanding of stemness and malignant regulatory signatures is considered in this contribution. Analyses from this perspective of experimental and clinical observations revealed the pivotal role of human stem cell-associated retroviral sequences (SCARS) in the origin and pathophysiology of clinically-lethal malignancies. SCARS were defined as the evolutionary- and biologically-related family of genomic regulatory sequences, the principal physiological function of which is to create and maintain the stemness phenotype during human preimplantation embryogenesis. For cell differentiation to occur, SCARS expression must be silenced and SCARS activity remains repressed in most terminally-differentiated human cells performing specialized functions in the human body. De-repression and sustained activity of SCARS results in various differentiation-defective phenotypes. One of the most prominent tissue- and organ-specific clinical manifestations of sustained SCARS activities is diagnosed as a pathological condition defined by a consensus of morphological, molecular, and genetic examinations as the malignant growth. Contemporary evidence are acquired, analyzed, and reported defining both reliable diagnostic tools and druggable molecular targets readily amenable for diagnosis and efficient therapeutic management of clinically-lethal malignancies: detection of high-fidelity molecular signals of continuing SCARS activities in association with genomic regulatory networks of thousands’ functionally-active enhancers triggering engagements of down-stream phenotype-altering genetic loci.