Published in Cancer Detection and Prevention 2004; 28(2):119-126.

Large-scale mitochondrial DNA deletion mutations and nuclear genome instability in human breast cancer

Weizhu Zhu, MD, Wenyi Qin, MD, Edward R. Sauter, MD, PhD

Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, Health Science Center, Department of Surgery, University of Missouri, M588 One Hospital Drive, Columbia, MO 65212, USA

Deletion mutations in mitochondrial (mt) DNA (mtDNA) as well as microsatellite instability (MSI) and loss of heterozygosity (LOH) in nuclear DNA (nDNA) exist in human cancer. We determined if: (1) large-scale mtDNA deletion mutations were present in cancerous and not in normal breast tissue, and (2) combining mt- and nDNA findings would provide complementary information to identify breast cancer. Thirty-nine matched breast cancer/histologically normal and 23 "true" normal tissue samples from women without breast cancer were microdissected and DNA extracted. 4977, 3938, 4388 and 4576 bp deletions were observed, with the 4576 bp deletion present in 0% of true normal, 13% of histologically normal specimens from a cancerous breast and 77% of breast cancers. The other three deletions were not specific to a breast containing cancer. LOH was found in 66.7% and MSI in 38.5% of samples. 38/39 (97.4%) tumors had at least one nDNA or 4576 bp mtDNA alteration, suggesting that mt- and nDNA analysis provides complementary information in breast cancer detection. The 4576 bp deletion appears to indicate cancer in the breast. The higher mtDNA copy number in cancer coupled with a mtDNA deletion mutation which appears specific for breasts which contain cancer may prove to be a good target to screen for cancer in the breast, including specimens of low and/or mixed cellularity.

KEY WORDS: Mitochondrial DNA, Microsatellite instability, Loss of heterozygosity.