Distributions of five common point mutants in the human tracheal-bronchial epithelium

Hiroko Sudo, Xiao Cheng Li-Sucholeiki, Luisa A. Marcelino, Amanda N. Gruhl, Helmut Zarbl, James C. Willey, William G. Thilly*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The mutations C742T, G746T, G747T in the TP53 gene and G35T in the KRAS gene have been repeatedly found in sectors of human tumors by direct DNA sequencing. The mutation G508A in the HPRT1 gene has been repeatedly found among peripheral T lymphocytes by clonal expansion under selective conditions. To discover if these mutations also occur frequently in normal tissues from which tumors arise, we have developed and validated allele-specific mismatch amplification mutation assays (MAMA) for each mutation. Reconstruction experiments demonstrated linearity in the range of 9-3000 mutant alleles among 3 × 106 wild-type alleles. The cumulative distributions of all negative controls established robust detection limits (P < 0.05) of 34-125 mutants per 106 copies assayed depending on the mutation. One hundred and seventy-seven micro-anatomical samples of ∼(0.5-6) × 106 tracheal-bronchial epithelial cells from nine non-smokers were assayed representing en toto the equivalent of ∼1.6 human bronchial trees to the fifth bifurcation. Statistically significant mutant copy numbers were found in 257 of 463 assays. Clusters of mutant copies ranged from 10 to 1000 in 239/257 positive samples. As all five point mutations were detected at mutant fractions of >10-5 in two or more lungs, we infer that they are mutational hotspots generated in lung epithelial stem cells. As the cancer-associated mutations did not differ in cluster size distribution from the HPRT1 mutation, we infer that none of the mutations conferred a growth advantage to somatic heterozygous clusters or maintenance turnover units. Specific mutants appeared in very large copy numbers, 1000-35,000, in 18/257 positive assays. Various hypotheses to account for the observed cluster size distributions are offered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-127
Number of pages15
JournalMutation Research - Fundamental and Molecular Mechanisms of Mutagenesis
Issue number1-2 SPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Apr 11 2006


  • Epithelial
  • Lung
  • Mutant fractions
  • Mutations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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