The dysregulation of proper transcriptional control is a major cause of developmental diseases and cancers. Polycomb proteins form chromatin-modifying complexes that transcriptionally silence genome regions in higher eukaryotes. The BCL6 corepressor (BCOR) complex comprises ring finger protein 1B (RNF2/RING1B), polycomb group ring finger 1 (PCGF1), and lysine-specific demethylase 2B (KDM2B) and is uniquely recruited to nonmethylated CpG islands, where it removes histone H3K36me2 and induces repressive histone H2A monoubiquitylation. Germline BCOR mutations have been detected in patients with oculofaciocardiodental and Lenz microphthalmia syndromes, which are inherited conditions. Recently, several variants of BCOR and BCOR-like 1 (BCORL1) chimeric fusion transcripts were reported in human cancers, including acute promyelocytic leukemia, bone sarcoma, and hepatocellular carcinoma. In addition, massively parallel sequencing has identified inactivating somatic BCOR and BCORL1 mutations in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), chronic myelomonocytic leukemia, medulloblastoma, and retinoblastoma. More importantly, patients with AML and MDS with BCOR mutations exhibit poor prognosis. This perspective highlights the detection of BCOR mutations and fusion transcripts of BCOR and BCORL1 and discusses their importance for diagnosing cancer subtypes and estimating the treatment responses of patients. Furthermore, this perspective proposes the need for additional functional studies to clarify the oncogenic mechanism by which BCOR and BCORL1 are disrupted in cancers, and how this may lead to the development of novel therapeutics.
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