When cells in our body change their genome and develop into cancer, we blame it on genome instability. When novel species conquer inhospitable environments, we credit it to genome evolution. From a cellular perspective, however, both processes are outcomes of the same fundamental biological properties-genome and pathway plasticity and the natural selection of cells that escape death and acquire growth advantages. Unraveling the consequences of genome plasticity at a cellular level is not only central to the understanding of species evolution but also crucial to deciphering important cell biological problems, such as how cancer cells emerge and how pathogens develop drug resistance. Aside from the well-known role of DNA sequence mutations, recent evidence suggests that changes in DNA copy numbers in the form of segmental or whole-chromosome aneuploidy can bring about large phenotypic variation. Although usually detrimental under conditions suitable for normal proliferation of euploid cells, aneuploidization may be a frequently occurring genetic change that enables pathogens or cancer cells to escape physiological or pharmacological roadblocks.
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