A mutation assay in cultured mammalian cells based on the direct analysis of minisatellite DNA was developed. Band pattern variations reflect DNA alterations ranging from single base changes to complex rearrangements. By DNA fingerprinting a large number of autosomal loci throughout the human genome can be simultaneously checked, therefore minimizing the size of the samples of cell colonies to be scored in the absence of phenotypic selection. For the mutation assay chinese hamster cells (V79) were treated with Nitrosoguanidine and 14 independent colonies were isolated and expanded. DNA fingerprints were obtained after digestion of the DNA extracted from each clone with bothHinfI andHae III, and hybridisation with both 33.15 and 33.6 probes. Twelve colonies from untreated cells were also analysed. Several differences in the band pattern of treated colonies were observed when compared with untreated cells; digestion withHae III and hybridisation with 33.15 probe allowed the detection of the highest frequency of induced variants. The results suggest that minisatellite sequences are hypermutable sites that can be used to monitor the mutagenic potential of chemical agents directly at the DNA level, without phenotypic selection. Moreover, with the method herein decribed, it is possible to distinguish between true mutations and epimutations, such as those caused by changes in DNA methylation.
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