The clonal composition of human colorectal tumors was studied by means of restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs). First, X-linked RPLPs were used to examine the pattern of X chromosome inactivation in colorectal tumors of females. All 50 tumors examined showed monoclonal patterns of X chromosome inactivation; these tumors included 20 carcinomas as well as 30 adenomas of either familial or spontaneous type. Second, RFLPs of autosomes were used as clonal markers to detect the somatic loss or gain of specific chromosomal sequences in colorectal tumors. Among other changes, it was found that somatic loss of chromosome 17p sequences occurred in over 75 percent of the carcinomas examined, but such loss was rare in adenomas. These data support a monoclonal origin for colorectal neoplasms, and suggest that a gene on the short arm of chromosome 17 may be associated with progression from the benign to the malignant state.
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