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The neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2) tumour suppressor gene: implications beyond the hereditary tumour syndrome?

The cloning of the gene that causes neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2), a hereditary tumour syndrome typically associated with brain tumours such as vestibular schwannomas and meningiomas, represents another successful application of the "positional cloning" approach--that is, the isolation of a hereditary disease gene of unknown function, based on the determination of its chromosomal location in the human genome. The NF2 gene is homologous to a family of genes whose products, including moesin, ezrin, radixin and protein 4.1, appear to have an important role in bridging the cell membrane and the intracellular cytoskeletion. Mutation analyses have revealed that the NF2 tumour suppressor gene is frequently mutated not only in vestibular schwannomas and meningiomas from NF2 patients, but also in their sporadic counterparts, which represent approximately one third of all human brain tumours. Furthermore, malignant human tumours seemingly unrelated to the NF2 syndrome, such as malignant melanomas (derived from the neural crest) and malignant mesotheliomas (derived from pleural mesoderm), also frequently have mutations or deletions at the NF2 locus, suggesting a broader role of the NF2 gene in the initiation and progression of human neoplasms.

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