Many ribosomal protein genes are cancer genes in zebrafish

PLoS Biol. 2004 May;2(5):E139. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0020139. Epub 2004 May 11.


We have generated several hundred lines of zebrafish (Danio rerio), each heterozygous for a recessive embryonic lethal mutation. Since many tumor suppressor genes are recessive lethals, we screened our colony for lines that display early mortality and/or gross evidence of tumors. We identified 12 lines with elevated cancer incidence. Fish from these lines develop malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, and in some cases also other tumor types, with moderate to very high frequencies. Surprisingly, 11 of the 12 lines were each heterozygous for a mutation in a different ribosomal protein (RP) gene, while one line was heterozygous for a mutation in a zebrafish paralog of the human and mouse tumor suppressor gene, neurofibromatosis type 2. Our findings suggest that many RP genes may act as haploinsufficient tumor suppressors in fish. Many RP genes might also be cancer genes in humans, where their role in tumorigenesis could easily have escaped detection up to now.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Loss of Heterozygosity
  • Mutagenesis
  • Mutation
  • Neurofibromin 2 / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • RNA / chemistry
  • RNA, Ribosomal / chemistry
  • Ribosomal Proteins / chemistry*
  • Ribosomes / chemistry*
  • Zebrafish


  • Neurofibromin 2
  • RNA, Ribosomal
  • Ribosomal Proteins
  • RNA