Humans normally have 46 chromosomes in each cell, divided into 23 pairs. Two copies of chromosome 9, one copy inherited from each parent, form one of the pairs. Chromosome 9 is made up of about 141 million DNA building blocks (base pairs) and represents approximately 4.5 percent of the total DNA in cells.
Identifying genes on each chromosome is an active area of genetic research. Because researchers use different approaches to predict the number of genes on each chromosome, the estimated number of genes varies. Chromosome 9 likely contains 800 to 900 genes that provide instructions for making proteins. These proteins perform a variety of different roles in the body.
The following chromosomal conditions are associated with changes in the structure or number of copies of chromosome 9.
9q22.3 microdeletion is a chromosomal change in which a small piece of the long (q) arm of chromosome 9 is deleted in each cell. Affected individuals are missing at least 352,000 base pairs, also written as 352 kilobases (kb), in the q22.3 region of chromosome 9. This 352-kb segment is known as the minimum critical region because it is the smallest deletion that has been found to cause the signs and symptoms related to 9q22.3 microdeletions. These signs and symptoms include delayed development, intellectual disability, certain physical abnormalities, and the characteristic features of a genetic condition called Gorlin syndrome (also known as nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome). 9q22.3 microdeletions can also be much larger; the largest reported deletion included 20.5 million base pairs (20.5 Mb).
People with a 9q22.3 microdeletion are missing from two to more than 270 genes on chromosome 9. All known 9q22.3 microdeletions include the PTCH1 gene. Researchers believe that many of the features associated with 9q22.3 microdeletions, particularly the signs and symptoms of Gorlin syndrome, result from a loss of the PTCH1 gene. Other signs and symptoms related to 9q22.3 microdeletions probably result from the loss of additional genes in the q22.3 region. Researchers are working to determine which missing genes contribute to the other features associated with the deletion.
Deletions of part or all of chromosome 9 are commonly found in bladder cancers. These chromosomal changes are seen only in cancer cells and typically occur early in tumor formation. Researchers believe that several genes that play a role in bladder cancer may be located on chromosome 9. They suspect that these genes may be tumor suppressors, which means they normally help prevent cells from growing and dividing in an uncontrolled way. Researchers are working to determine which genes, when altered or missing, are involved in the development and progression of bladder tumors.
Most people with Kleefstra syndrome, a disorder with signs and symptoms involving many parts of the body, are missing a sequence of about 1 million DNA building blocks (base pairs) on one copy of chromosome 9 in each cell. The deletion occurs near the end of the long (q) arm of the chromosome at a location designated q34.3, a region containing a gene called EHMT1. Some affected individuals have shorter or longer deletions in the same region.
The loss of the EHMT1 gene from one copy of chromosome 9 in each cell is believed to be responsible for the characteristic features of Kleefstra syndrome in people with the 9q34.3 deletion. However, the loss of other genes in the same region may lead to additional health problems in some affected individuals.
The EHMT1 gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called euchromatic histone methyltransferase 1. Histone methyltransferases are enzymes that modify proteins called histones. Histones are structural proteins that attach (bind) to DNA and give chromosomes their shape. By adding a molecule called a methyl group to histones, histone methyltransferases can turn off (suppress) the activity of certain genes, which is essential for normal development and function. A lack of euchromatic histone methyltransferase 1 enzyme impairs proper control of the activity of certain genes in many of the body's organs and tissues, resulting in the abnormalities of development and function characteristic of Kleefstra syndrome.
Changes in the structure of chromosome 9 have been found in many types of cancer. These changes, which occur only in cancer cells, usually involve a loss of part of the chromosome or a rearrangement of chromosomal material. For example, a loss of part of the long (q) arm of chromosome 9 has been identified in some types of brain tumor. It is unclear how these chromosomal changes are related to the development and growth of cancers.
A rearrangement (translocation) of genetic material between chromosomes 9 and 22 is associated with several types of blood cancer known as leukemias. This chromosomal abnormality, which is commonly called the Philadelphia chromosome, is found only in cancer cells. It fuses part of a specific gene from chromosome 22 (the BCR gene) with part of another gene from chromosome 9 (the ABL1 gene). The protein produced from these fused genes signals tumor cells to continue dividing abnormally and prevents them from adequately repairing DNA damage.
The Philadelphia chromosome has been identified in most cases of a slowly progressing form of blood cancer called chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). It also has been found in some cases of more rapidly progressing blood cancers known as acute leukemias. The presence of the Philadelphia chromosome can help predict how a cancer will progress and provides a target for molecular therapies.
Other changes in the structure or number of copies of chromosome 9 can have a variety of effects. Intellectual disability, delayed development, distinctive facial features, and an unusual head shape are common features. Changes to chromosome 9 include an extra piece of the chromosome in each cell (partial trisomy), a missing segment of the chromosome in each cell (partial monosomy), and a circular structure called a ring chromosome 9. A ring chromosome occurs when both ends of a broken chromosome are reunited. Rearrangements (translocations) of genetic material between chromosome 9 and other chromosomes can also lead to extra or missing chromosome segments.
Geneticists use diagrams called idiograms as a standard representation for chromosomes. Idiograms show a chromosome's relative size and its banding pattern, which is the characteristic pattern of dark and light bands that appears when a chromosome is stained with a chemical solution and then viewed under a microscope. These bands are used to describe the location of genes on each chromosome.