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Nat Methods. 2005 Apr;2(4):285-90. Epub 2005 Mar 23.

Quantification of random genomic mutations.

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The Joseph Gottstein Memorial Cancer Research Laboratory, University of Washington School of Medicine, Department of Pathology, 1959 N.E. Pacific Street, Seattle, Washington 98195-7705, USA.


Cancer cells contain numerous clonal mutations. It has been theorized that malignant cells sustain an elevated mutation rate and, as a consequence, harbor yet larger numbers of random point mutations. Testing this hypothesis has been precluded by lack of an assay to measure random mutations-that is, mutations that occur in only one or a few cells of a population. We have established a method that has permitted us to detect and identify rare random mutations in human cells, at a frequency of 1 per 10(8) base pairs. The assay is based on gene capture, by hybridization with a uracil-containing probe, followed by magnetic separation. Mutations that render the mutational target sequence non-cleavable by a restriction enzyme are quantified by dilution to single molecules and real-time quantitative PCR amplification. The assay can be extended to quantify mutation in any DNA-based organism, at different sites in the genome, in introns and exons, in unselected and selected genes, and in proliferating and quiescent cells.

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