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Nature. 1988 Jun 2;333(6172):461-3.

Demonstration of somatic mutation and colonic crypt clonality by X-linked enzyme histochemistry.

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Department of Pathology, University of Wales College of Medicine, Heath Park, Cardiff, UK.


Cellular mosaicism resulting from X-chromosome inactivation in heterozygous females can be shown histochemically; using this approach we have demonstrated age-related gene reactivation and tumour clonality. We now show in female mice heterozygous for reduced expression of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) activity that colonic epithelial cells express either normal or low enzyme activity, and form patches composed of multiple crypts of uniform phenotype. We also show that a low-enzyme colonic epithelial cell phenotype can be induced in normal mice by carcinogen treatment, these cells again occur in patches, but are restricted to scattered single crypts, the frequency of which is related to treatment. A small proportion of colonic tumours in carcinogen treated normal mice are also of low-enzyme phenotype. We conclude that we have visualized the effects of a sporadic carcinogen induced somatic mutation in the G6PD gene of crypt stem cells and that a single stem cell maintains each colonic crypt. This inducible defective activity of a ubiquitous 'housekeeping' enzyme provides a somatic clonal marker system of wide potential application.

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