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Cancer Genet Cytogenet. 2000 Nov;123(1):35-40.

Somatic alterations of the androgen receptor CAG repeat in human colon cancer delineate a novel mutation pathway independent of microsatellite instability.

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Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Cancer Institute, Genoa, Genoa, Italy.


The human androgen receptor gene contains a polymorphic CAG repeat region ranging from 8 to about 35 repeats in the normal human population. The repeat length is inversely related to the transactivation potential of the receptor. We have analyzed the repeat length in 50 sporadic colon cancer samples in comparison to surrounding healthy mucosa and have found somatic reductions of up to 10 repeats in 5 cases (10%), 3 of which were complex, probably involving both alleles. Alterations occurred in tumors with and without microsatellite instability indicating that they follow an independent mutation pathway. The similar repeat of the huntingtin gene did not show any somatic alterations in the same cases. No correlation to sex, tumor stage, location, or histology was evident. In the tumors that showed somatic reductions, the reduced allele was present in at least half of the cells and thus in most, if not all, of the tumor component of the sample. Somatic reductions of the androgen receptor CAG repeat thus occur frequently, through a pathway distinct from microsatellite instability and early during colon carcinogenesis. The receptor is expressed in most normal and neoplastic tissue samples analyzed. Apparent growth selection of cells bearing shortened AR alleles suggests that androgens contribute to colon carcinogenesis in a yet unknown way.

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