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Am J Hum Genet. 1989 Mar;44(3):402-8.

Evidence for an elevated frequency of in vivo somatic cell mutations in ataxia telangiectasia.

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Biomedical Sciences Division, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, CA 94550.


Somatic cell mutation frequency in vivo was measured in individuals with high cancer risk who were from ataxia telangiectasia (A-T) families. The assay for somatic mutation measures the frequency of variant erythrocytes which are progeny of erythroid precursor cells with mutations that result in a loss of gene expression at the polymorphic glycophorin A (GPA) locus. Samples from 14 of 15 A-T homozygotes showed high frequencies of GPA gene expression-loss variant cells with normal expression of only one of the two alleles at the GPA locus (i.e., GPA hemizygous variant cells). The mean elevation of the frequency of hemizygous variant cells over those in normal controls and unaffected family members was 7-14-fold. A-T homozygotes also showed an increase in the frequency of cells in which one allele at the GPA locus had lost expression and in which the remaining allele was expressed at a homozygous level (i.e., GPA homozygous variant cells). Family members who are obligate A-T heterozygotes did not appear to have a significantly elevated frequency of GPA hemizygous or homozygous variant cells. These indications of elevated in vivo frequencies of variant erythrocytes in A-T homozygotes support a causal link between susceptibility to somatic mutation and susceptibility to cancer.

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