The human genome project has given us the sequences of information in our chromosomes that provide a parts manual for building an organism. We are composed of about 22-25,000 genes that make up the structures of our body. We are uncovering the signals that direct these structures in time, space and quantity. By comparing the genetic differences in the sequences among individuals (0.1%) it has been possible to look for associations between single nucleotide polymorphisms (changes in sequence) and predispositions to diseases or other properties. Quantifying these associations is a statistical challenge. By examining a collection of these polymorphisms in a gene or a region of a chromosome, it is becoming possible to test whether a polymorphism is being selected for or against over evolutionary times of humans in Africa, Asia and Europe. A positive selection commonly is associated with resistance to microbial diseases or enhanced fecundity. In studying these polymorphic associations with the age of onset of cancers in women we have come across a set of differences that also affect fecundity in women. This may be an example of antagonistic pleiotropy, where a positive trait in reproduction has a negative effect upon another process -- often occurring later in life.
Map and directions
DR. ARNOLD J. LEVINE is a professor at The Simons Center for Systems Biology at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (see http:www.csb.ias.edu/levine ), and a joint professor in the Pediatrics and Biochemistry Departments at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick, New Jersey. His research has focused on the causes of cancer in humans and animals. He discovered the p53 tumor suppressor gene, which acts to protect individuals from developing cancer and has identified genetic polymorphisms that alter the course of cancers, as well as novel biological processes that protect individuals from developing cancers.
Dr. Levine has helped determine national research priorities as chair of the National Institutes of Health Commission on AIDS Research and the National Academies Cancer Policy Board. He has served as president of Rockefeller University (1998-2002), chairman of the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University (1984-1998), and chairman of the Department of Microbiology at the School of Medicine, SUNY Stony Brook (1979-1984). He has received nine honorary doctoral degrees and numerous awards, including the Mott Prize from the General Motors Foundation, the Bristol Meyers Prize for Cancer Research, the first Albany Medical College Prize, and the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University.
Dr. Levine was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1991 and a member of its Institute of Medicine in 1995. He is the author of over 300 research articles and a book, Viruses, published by the Scientific American Library Series in 1993.