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Cancer Lett. 2003 Jan 28;189(2):207-19.

Preferential integration of a transfected marker gene into spontaneously expressed fragile sites of a breast cancer cell line.

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Abteilung Zytogenetik H-0400, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, Im Neuenheimer Feld 280, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


Common fragile sites are non-randomly distributed unstable chromosomal regions thought to be hot spots for recombination. They appear as gaps, breaks and triradial figures when cells are cultured under conditions that inhibit replication or repair of DNA. The removal of replication-inhibitory challenges is followed by repair activation to restore the DNA damage at the fragile site. The breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-436 has a spontaneous and non-random expression pattern of fragile sites that appear to be related to the complex pattern of chromosomal rearrangements. The high frequency of which fragile sites are spontaneously activated should make MDA-MB-436 cells a powerful tool to study in greater detail the DNA sequences of a multiplicity of fragile sites. Here, we have explored if the DNA at spontaneously activated fragile sites in MDA-MB-436 cells can be genetically tagged by the repair-mediated insertion of an exogenously supplied drug resistance gene. The cells were transfected with pSV2Neo, stably transfected clones were selected with neomycin, and the sites of pSV2Neo integration were determined by fluorescent in situ hybridization. Eighty-eight of 100 isolated clones had a non-random distribution of a total of 112 pSV2Neo integrations. Of these, 95 integrations (85%) coincide with the position at which non-random gaps and breaks appear in the MDA-MB-436 cells. Forty-nine (44%) of the 112 integrations appeared to be at position of known fragile sites, 46 (41%) were at the non-random chromosomal sites not previously described as "true" fragile sites. It is possible, however, that these non-random instabilities signal of genomic regions equivalent to fragile sites, that either have not previously been detected due to low level expression or that are activated in a tissue- or cell-type-specific manner. Collectively, our results show a preferential integration of exogenous DNA into fragile sites and other non-random regions of high genomic instability in MDA-MB-436 cells. This approach has provided a platform for the efficient targeted cloning and characterization of a substantial number of both common fragile sites and other non-random instability regions possibly related to breast cancer, and possibly also to other types of cancer.

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