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Oncogene. 1997 Mar 20;14(11):1307-13.

Determining mutational fingerprints at the human p53 locus with a yeast functional assay: a new tool for molecular epidemiology.

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CSTA-Mutagenesis Laboratory, National Institute for Research on Cancer (IST), Genova, Italy.


In order to isolate experimentally induced p53 mutations, a yeast expression vector harbouring a human wild-type p53 cDNA was treated in vitro with the antineoplastic drug chloroethyl-cyclohexyl-nitroso-urea (CCNU) and transfected into a yeast strain containing the ADE2 gene regulated by a p53-responsive promoter. p53 mutations were identified in 32 out of 39 plasmids rescued from independent ade- transformants. Ninety-two percent of CCNU induced mutations were GC-targeted single base pair substitutions, and GC > AT transitions represented 73% of all single base pair substitutions. In 70% of the cases the mutated G was preceded 5' by a purine. The distribution of the mutations along the p53 cDNA was not random: positions 734 and 785 appeared as CCNU mutational hotspots (n=3, P<0.0003) and CCNU induced only GC > AT transitions at those positions. The features of these CCNU-induced mutations are consistent with the hypothesis that O6-alkylguanine is the major causative lesion. One third of the CCNU-induced mutants were absent from a huge collection of 4496 p53 mutations in human tumours and cell lines, thus demonstrating that CCNU has a mutational spectrum which is uniquely different from that of naturally selected mutations. This strategy allows direct comparison of observed natural mutation spectra with experimentally induced mutation spectra and opens the way to a more rigorous approach in the field of molecular epidemiology.

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