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Int J Cancer. 2002 Sep 10;101(2):137-45.

Combined karyotyping, CGH and M-FISH analysis allows detailed characterization of unidentified chromosomal rearrangements in Merkel cell carcinoma.

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Center for Medical Genetics, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium.


Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is a rare aggressive neuroendocrine tumor of the skin. Cytogenetic studies have indicated that deletions and unbalanced translocations involving chromosome 1 short arm material occur in 40% of the investigated cases. Recurrent chromosomal imbalances detected by comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) analysis were loss of 3p, 10q, 13q and 17p and gains of 1q, 3q, 5p and 8q. In order to study genomic aberrations occurring in MCC in further detail, we combined karyotyping, CGH and multiplex-fluorescence in situ hybridization (M-FISH), a strategy that proved to be successful in the analysis of other malignancies. Analysis of 6 MCC cell lines and 1 MCC tumor revealed mostly near-diploid karyotypes with an average of 5 chromosomal rearrangements. The observed karyotypic changes were heterogeneous, with 3-27 breakpoints per case, leading to imbalance of the involved chromosomal regions that was confirmed by CGH. Chromosomal rearrangements involving the short arm of chromosome 1, the long arm of chromosome 3 and gain of 5p material were the most frequently observed abnormalities in our study. In keeping with previous observations, this series of MCCs showed no evidence for high-level amplification. We provid a detailed description of chromosomal translocations occurring in MCC that could be useful to direct future intensive investigation of these chromosomal regions.

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