Robertsonian translocations (RTs) result from fusion of 2 acrocentric chromosomes (e.g., 13, 14, 15, 21, 22) and consequential losses of segments of the p arms containing 47S rDNA clusters and transcription factor binding sites. Depending on the position of the breakpoints, the size of these losses vary considerably between types of RTs. The prevalence of RTs in the general population is estimated to be around 1 per 800 individuals, making RTs the most common chromosomal rearrangement in healthy individuals. Based on their prevalence, RTs are classified as "common," rob(13;14) and rob(14;21), or "rare" (the 8 remaining nonhomologous combinations). Carriers of RTs are at an increased risk for offspring with chromosomal imbalances or with uniparental disomy. RTs are generally regarded as phenotypically neutral, although, due to RTs formation, 2 of the 10 ribosomal rDNA gene clusters, several long noncoding RNAs, and in the case of RTs involving chromosome 21, several mRNA encoding genes are lost. Nevertheless, recent evidence indicates that RTs may have a significant phenotypic impact. In particular, rob(13;14) carriers have a significantly elevated risk for breast cancer. While RTs are easily spotted by routine karyotyping, they may go unnoticed if only array-CGH and NextGen sequencing methods are applied. This review first discusses possible molecular mechanisms underlying the particularly high rates of RT formation and their incidence in the general population, and second, likely causes for the elevated cancer risk of some RTs will be examined.
- Breast cancer; Interchromosomal effect; Nucleolus organizer region; Robertsonian translocation; Single molecule optical mapping.