The p53 gene is a tumor suppressor gene located on chromosome 17p. Deletions of this chromosome and point mutations of p53 have been implicated in the development of colonic neoplasms. We have analyzed the loss of heterozygosity of the human p53 tumor suppressor gene in 40 cases of colorectal carcinoma using two restriction fragment length polymorphisms detected by Bg/II and AccII restriction enzymes. p53 gene product expression was studied immunohistochemically in 64 colorectal carcinomas, 18 adenomas, and 40 normal colonic mucosae using an anti-human p53 monoclonal antibody (Pab 1801) and the avidinbiotin-peroxidase complex technique. Twelve of the 40 patients (30%) were polymorphic for the p53 gene. In ten of these informative patients (83%), the tumor samples showed the loss of one allele when compared with normal colorectal samples of the same patient. One of the homozygous patients showed a loss of both p53 alleles. p53 immunostaining was observed in 43 of 64 carcinomas (67%) but only in two adenomas (11%). These two positive adenomas showed areas of carcinoma in situ. The normal mucosa was always negative. No relation could be found between p53 immunostaining and the degree of differentiation, the extension of the tumor, or the Ki-67 proliferative index. Mucinous carcinomas and right-side carcinomas were less p53 immunoreactive (25% and 52%, respectively) than the usual adenocarcinomas (73%) and distal tumors (72%). These findings suggest that p53 may be a target of chromosome 17 deletions and that this gene may play a role in the malignant transformation of adenomas. Bg/II and AccII restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of the p53 gene may be a useful and direct technique to detect allelic loss of this gene in tumors.

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This study was supported by Grants CAICIT PB 86/0046 (J. Y.) and DGICYT PM 90/0060 (E. C.) from the Spanish Ministerio de Educacion y Ciencia. R. M. and O. C-M. were fellows supported by the Spanish Ministerio de Educacion y Ciencia and Hospital Clinico y Provincial de Barcelona, respectively.

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