Mutations in the isocitrate dehydrogenase genes IDH1 and IDH2 have been identified in gliomas, the most common form of brain tumour, and in other cancers including leukaemias. The mutated enzymes produce 2-hydroxyglutarate (2HG), which is a potential oncometabolite. Three papers in this issue of Nature examine the mechanisms through which IDH mutations promote cancers. Lu et al. show that 2HG-producing IDH mutants can prevent the histone demethylation that is required for progenitor cells to differentiate, potentially contributing to tumour-cell accumulation. Turcan et al. show that IDH1 mutation in primary human astrocytes induces DNA hypermethylation and reshapes the methylome to resemble that of the CIMP phenotype, a common feature of gliomas and other solid tumours. Koivunen et al. show that the (R)-enantiomer of 2HG (but not the (S)-enantiomer) can stimulate the activity of the EGLN prolyl 4-hydroxylases, leading to diminished levels of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF), which in turn can enhance cell proliferation. These papers establish a framework for understanding gliomagenesis and highlight the interplay between genomic and epigenomic changes in human cancers.
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