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J Virol. 1992 Jun;66(6):3768-75.

Alterations of the p53 gene in nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

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Department of Microbiology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 27599-7295.


Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a malignancy which is consistently associated with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). The structure of the EBV genome in NPC suggests that NPC is a clonal proliferation of epithelial cells which emerges after EBV infection. The disease develops with high incidence in specific populations in discrete geographic locations, implicating possible genetic or environmental cofactors. Mutations of the p53 gene are among the most frequent genetic changes found in a large variety of human tumors. Mutations in p53 have been shown to abrogate the suppressor function of wild-type p53 and thus contribute to the transformed phenotype. To determine if mutation in p53 participates in the development of the malignant clone in NPC, the structure and sequence of p53 in 42 primary, metastatic, and nude mouse-passaged NPC specimens was analyzed. A high frequency (6 of 9) of mutations was detected in the nude mouse-passaged tumors, while only 2 of 15 metastatic and 0 of the 18 primary tumors harbored mutant p53. The p53 mutations included single-point mutations and more extensive changes such as frame shifts, deletion, duplication, or complete loss of coding sequences. These data indicate that alterations of the p53 gene are unlikely to be involved in the initial genetic events leading to the clonal outgrowth in NPC. However, although it is a rare NPC which can be established in nude mice, this growth advantage appears to be conferred on tumors bearing a mutant p53.

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