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Oncogene. 1998 Jul 30;17(4):493-502.

Selective mutation of K-ras by N-ethylnitrosourea shifts from codon 12 to codon 61 during fetal mouse lung maturation.

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Intramural Research Support Program, SAIC Frederick, Maryland 21702-1201, USA.


Fetal mouse lung before gestation day 17 shows unique sensitivity to causation of rapidly growing tumors by N-ethylnitrosourea (ENU). Since mouse lung tumors present a mutated K-ras oncogene, we hypothesized that this special susceptibility might reflect an unusual vulnerability of the K-ras gene. Of the lung tumors caused by ENU exposure of BALB/c mice on gestation day 14, 8/25 had a codon 12 mutation in K-ras, vs 4/25 in codon 61. Of 15 tumors after day 16 exposure, three had codon 12 and four codon 61 changes. Tumors from day 18 exposure had only codon 61 mutations (11/16), all A:T to G:C changes (CGA). By contrast, codon 12 (GGT) changes included G:C to T:A, to A:T, and to C:G. These results show significant (P<0.01) shift in the sensitivity of particular K-ras codons to ENU mutation, during fetal mouse lung maturation. In a test of a possible relationship to expression of K-ras, K-ras p21 was measured in lungs of fetal mice, and found to increase markedly on day 18 in comparison to days 14 and 16. Both alkylation of DNA and base damage due to reactive oxygen species are postulated as mechanisms for mutation by ENU, whose efficacies vary with state of fetal lung maturation and K-ras expression.

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