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Toxicology. 1995 Aug 25;101(3):125-56.

Mutations in the ras proto-oncogene: clues to etiology and molecular pathogenesis of mouse liver tumors.

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National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA.


The mouse liver is a frequent target organ for chemical carcinogenesis (Huff et al., 1988, 1991; Gold et al., 1989) and tumor development exhibits preferential strain sensitivity (Dragani et al., 1992; Drinkwater and Bennett, 1991). In some reports a positive correlation has been observed between the degree of spontaneous liver tumor incidence and the propensity to develop liver tumors after treatment with chemical carcinogens (Della Porta et al., 1967; Flaks, 1968; Dragani et al., 1984, 1987; Diwan et al., 1986; Drinkwater and Ginsler, 1986), but this is not always the case (Grasso and Hardy, 1975; Hanigan et al., 1988; Dragani et al., 1992). Thus, the interpretation of this endpoint in assessing potential health hazards to humans continues to be the subject of active debate. Studies of molecular and genetic factors that modulate the genesis of mouse liver tumors should enhance our understanding of the relevance of this response following exposure to genotoxic as well as nongenotoxic chemicals. To utilize intelligently animal models as surrogates for human carcinogenesis, the validity of rodent tumor endpoints in assessing potential human health hazards from chemical exposure remains an important issue. One approach has been to understand the animal system itself and the mechanisms by which chemicals induce tumors in the animal model. Information regarding the molecular events associated with tumor induction should make the relevance of results from rodent carcinogenicity studies to human risk easier to assess. Results to date have identified activation of ras proto-oncogenes as one early event and an important factor associated with chemical induction of mouse liver neoplasia (Reynolds et al., 1986, 1987; Wiseman et al., 1986), although ras-independent pathways appear to account for an appreciable proportion of some chemically induced mouse liver tumors (Fox et al., 1990; Buchmann et al., 1991). Available data emphasize the complexity of H-ras activation in murine hepatocarcinogenesis. Not only the genetic background of the mouse but also the dose of the carcinogen may influence significantly the number of tumors containing activated H-ras. Both high sensitivity and low sensitivity strains of mice can develop liver tumors which contain activated H-ras oncogenes, showing that the ability to activate this gene does not in itself determine susceptibility to hepatocarcinogenesis. Ras gene mutational profiles in chemically induced liver tumors may be different and distinguishable from those in spontaneous tumors. Since multiple genetic as well as nongenetic events are associated with tumor development, defining a precise role for ras gene mutations when they occur in mouse liver tumors is often difficult.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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