Spontaneous hydrolytic deamination of 5-methylcytosine leads to T:G mismatches in double-stranded DNA and comprises a major threat for the integrity of both the DNA primary sequence as well as the epigenetic information stored in the DNA methylation pattern. Failure of the cellular DNA repair machinery to recognize and repair such mismatched nucleotides can lead to a mutator phenotype and subsequent carcinogenesis. A thymine-DNA glycosylase (TDG) has been described that initiates T:G mismatch repair by specifically excising the mismatched T. We have studied the TDG genomic locus and the expression of this enzyme to evaluate its role in cancer development. TDG is highly expressed in thymus and is expressed at lower levels in all human tissues analyzed. The TDG gene has 10 exons covering a region of >25 kb and is located on chromosome 12q22-q24.1. Because gastric tumors have been shown to contain a high percentage of C→T mutations at CpG sites, we used a microsatellite found in intron 8 of the TDG locus to screen gastric tumor samples for loss of heterozygosity. Although our analysis showed loss of heterozygosity in 10 of 24 samples (42%), none of those tumor samples revealed a mutation in the coding sequence of the remaining TDG allele as analyzed by single-strand conformational polymorphism. Expression of the TDG was not determined because of the limited availability of RNA in these primary tumor samples. At present, we have found no evidence that TDG is central to the development of gastric cancer, limiting the importance of TDG in T:G mismatch repair and subsequent carcinogenesis.

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Supported by NIH Grants CA56542 and CA57007 (to R. F.).

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