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Genes Chromosomes Cancer. 2001 Apr;30(4):323-35.

Intrinsic genetic instability of normal human lymphocytes and its implication for loss of heterozygosity.

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MGC-Department of Radiation Genetics and Chemical Mutagenesis, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.


A combination of flow cytometry and microsatellite analysis was used to investigate loss of expression of HLA-A and/or HLA-B alleles and concurrent LOH at polymorphic chromosome 6 loci both in freshly isolated lymphocytes (in vivo mutations) and in lymphocytes cultured ex vivo. The fraction of in vivo mutants that showed LOH at 6p appeared to vary from 0%-49% for various donors. During culturing ex vivo, HLA-A(-) cells arose at a high rate and showed simultaneous loss of expression at the linked HLA-B locus. Up to 90% of the ex vivo arisen HLA-A2(-) cell population showed LOH of multiple 6p markers, and 50% had lost heterozygosity at 6q. This ex vivo spectrum resembles that found in HLA-A2 mutants obtained from lymphoblastoid cells. The HLA-A2 mutants present in vivo may reflect only a small fraction of the mutants that can be detected ex vivo. In normal lymphocytes, in vivo only mitotic recombination appears to be sustained, indicating the importance of this mechanism for tumor initiation in normal cells. Although mutations resulting in LOH at both chromosome 6 arms were shown to result in nonviable cells in normal lymphocytes, they have been shown to result in viable mutants in lymphoblastoid cells. We hypothesize that these types of mutations also occur in vivo but only survive in cells that already harbor a mutated genetic background. In light of the high rate at which these types of mutations occur, they may contribute to cancer progression.

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