Allelic deletions involving chromosome 18q occur in more than 70 percent of colorectal cancers. Such deletions are thought to signal the existence of a tumor suppressor gene in the affected region, but until now a candidate suppressor gene on this chromosomal arm had not been identified. A contiguous stretch of DNA comprising 370 kilobase pairs (kb) has now been cloned from a region of chromosome 18q suspected to reside near this gene. Potential exons in the 370-kb region were defined by human-rodent sequence identities, and the expression of potential exons was assessed by an "exon-connection" strategy based on the polymerase chain reaction. Expressed exons were used as probes for cDNA screening to obtain clones that encoded a portion of a gene termed DCC; this cDNA was encoded by at least eight exons within the 370-kb genomic region. The predicted amino acid sequence of the cDNA specified a protein with sequence similarity to neural cell adhesion molecules and other related cell surface glycoproteins. While the DCC gene was expressed in most normal tissues, including colonic mucosa, its expression was greatly reduced or absent in most colorectal carcinomas tested. Somatic mutations within the DCC gene observed in colorectal cancers included a homozygous deletion of the 5′ end of the gene, a point mutation within one of the introns, and ten examples of DNA insertions within a 0.17-kb fragment immediately downstream of one of the exons. The DCC gene may play a role in the pathogenesis of human colorectal neoplasia, perhaps through alteration of the normal cell-cell interactions controlling growth.
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