Activating mutations in the β-catenin (CTNNB1) gene corresponding to N-terminal phosphorylation sites in the protein have been implicated in the development of human colon cancer. To determine the possible involvement of such mutations during chemically induced colon carcinogenesis, we examined the corresponding region of Ctnnb1 in colon tumors induced in the F344 rat by two cooked meat heterocyclic amines, 2-amino-3-methylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoline and 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine (PhIP). All of the colon tumors induced by 2-amino-3-methylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoline that were examined (5 of 5) and 4 of 7 PhIP-induced colon tumors had mutations within or flanking codons corresponding to important phosphorylation sites in β-catenin. None of the colon tumors bearing Ctnnb1 mutations had genetic changes in the Apc gene, and those that contained wild-type Ctnnb1 were known from our previous work to contain Apc mutations. The results provide evidence for a major role of the β-catenin/Apc pathway in the development of heterocyclic amine-induced colon tumors and give further weight to the view that regulation of β-catenin is critical to the tumor suppressive effects of Apc during colon carcinogenesis. In contrast, Ctnnb1 mutations were completely absent in 23 PhIP-induced mammary tumors, in accordance with recent work showing that human breast carcinomas lack mutations in CTNNB1.


This study was supported in part by NIH Grant CA65525 and by a Grant-in-Aid for Cancer Research from the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture of Japan. R. H. D. is a recipient of a Foreign Research Fellowship of the Foundation for Promotion of Cancer Research, Tokyo, Japan. M. S. is a recipient of a Research Fellowship of the Foundation for Promotion of Cancer Research, Tokyo, Japan.

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