Manifestation of carcinogenesis as a stochastic process on the basis of an altered mitochondrial genome

Research paper by Diether Neubert, Werner Hopfenmüller, Günter Fuchs

Indexed on: 01 Sep '81Published on: 01 Sep '81Published in: Archives of Toxicology


Computer calculations are used to show the feasibility of a concept which explains the manifestation of a pathological cell function from a latent state by the phenomenon of extrachromosomal inheritance (through the mitochondrial genome) in mammalian cells. A hypothesis is submitted in which this principle is applied to the process of carcinogenesis. According to this concept, the manifestation of a tumor cell — after the initiation stage — entirely depends on stochastic events, i.e., random distribution of mitochondria during cell divisions, with an accumulation of the lesion in a few out of many cells. We feel that this concept comprises a better explanation of many characteristics and peculiarities of the phenomenon of carcinogenesis than do attempts which explain tumor formation as a phenomenon caused by mutation in a nuclear genome.A consideration of the principles presented automatically leads to a number of specific consequences with regard to carcinogenesis. Some of these consequences are discussed. They include: 1. the process of malignant transformation should not be irreversible for all the cells of a progeny; 2. the number of mitochondria in a cell type should be inversely correlated to tumor frequency; 3. the latent period should mainly be determined by the cell division rate and the “extent” of the initiating event; 4. susceptibility to carcinogenesis may be substantially higher if the number of mitochondria per cell line is increasing or decreasing, i.e., during the embryonic and fetal periods; 5. heterogeneous types of cells may arise from a single “initiated” cell, and 6. the process of malignant transformation should not necessarily be confined to one generation of the species.In addition, experimental approaches to support the submitted concept are suggested.