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Compensated pathogenic deviations
Deleterious or ‘disease-associated’ mutations are mutations that lead to disease with high phenotype penetrance: they are inherited in a simple Mendelian manner, or, in the case of cancer, accumulate in somatic cells leading directly to disease. However, in some cases, the amino acid that is substituted resulting in disease is the wild-type native residue in the functionally equivalent protein in another species. Such examples are known as ‘compensated pathogenic deviations’ (CPDs) because, somewhere in the second species, there must be compensatory mutations that allow the protein to function normally despite having a residue which would cause disease in the first species. Depending on the nature of the mutations, compensation can occur in the same protein, or in a different protein with which it interacts. In principle, compensation can be achieved by a single mutation (most probably structurally close to the CPD), or by the cumulative effect of several mutations. Although it is clear that these effects occur in proteins, compensatory mutations are also important in RNA potentially having an impact on disease. As a much simpler molecule, RNA provides an interesting model for understanding mechanisms of compensatory effects, both by looking at naturally occurring RNA molecules and as a means of computational simulation. This review surveys the rather limited literature that has explored these effects. Understanding the nature of CPDs is important in understanding traversal along fitness landscape valleys in evolution. It could also have applications in treating diseases that result from such mutations.
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