The human homologue of the Drosophila segment polarity gene patched (PTCH) has recently been identified as the tumor suppressor gene responsible for the nevoid basal cell carcinoma (BCC) syndrome (H. Hahn et al., Cell, 85: 841–851, 1996; R. L. Johnson et al., Science (Washington DC), 272: 1668–1671, 1996). In addition to multiple BCCs, patients with nevoid BCC syndrome have a predisposition for the development of primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNETs) of the central nervous system. We have analyzed 9 sporadic BCCs and 37 PNETs for mutation and expression of the PTCH gene. PTCH mutations were found in 3 BCCs (33.3%) and in 5 PNETs (14%), including 1 of 5 cerebral PNETs, 2 of 15 medulloblastomas, and 2 of 17 desmoplastic medulloblastomas. The sequence changes in six of these tumors (four PNETs, two BCCs) were mutations predicted to result in truncated proteins. Missense mutations were detected in one PNET and one BCC each. In addition, novel sequence polymorphisms were found in exon 2, intron 5, intron 10, and intron 14 of PTCH. Reverse transcription-PCR analysis revealed increased PTCH expression levels compared to nonneoplastic brain tissue and normal skin in the majority of PNETs and BCCs investigated. Our data suggest that genetic alterations of PTCH are not only of significance in hereditary and sporadic BCCs but are also involved in the molecular pathogenesis of a subset of sporadic central nervous system PNETs.

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Supported by Grant Re 938/2-1 from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and Grant 10-0976-Re1 from the Deutsche Krebshilfe.

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