Mutations in the TP53 gene in human malignant melanomas derived from sun-exposed skin and unexposed mucosal membranes

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Mutations in the p53 tumour suppressor gene (TP53) have been linked to several types of cancer. We therefore investigated whether such mutations occur in malignant melanomas and, if so, whether they are linked to ultraviolet (sun) light exposure. For the first time, TP53 mutations in mucosal membranes and adjacent tissues shielded from sunlight were compared with those in cutaneous melanomas from sun-exposed skin. Archival tissues were obtained from 35 patients with a primary melanoma taken from unexposed mucosal areas and from 34 patients with a primary melanoma located in chronically sun-exposed head and neck skin. TP53 was characterized by means of polymerase chain reaction amplification and single-strand conformation polymorphism assay followed by nucleotide sequencing. The results showed that 17.6% of the primary cutaneous and 28.6% of the primary mucosal melanomas had point mutations in TP53. Among the cutaneous melanomas, one showed three mutations in exon 7, and one had two mutations in exon 5; the mutation was in the same allele in both cases. One mucosal melanoma had two mutations in exon 7, both in the same allele, and another had two mutations, one in exon 7 and one in intron 6, both in the same allele. C←T mutations at dipyrimidine sites, considered fingerprints for ultraviolet light-induced mutations, were about equally distributed among patients with melanomas from chronically sun-exposed areas (six out of nine; 67%) and those with melanomas from unexposed mucosal areas and adjacent skin (eight out of 14; 57%). Our data, demonstrating the presence of such mutations even in melanomas from mucosal membranes, clearly suggest that factors other than, or additional to, ultraviolet radiation are operational in the induction of TP53 mutations in melanomas.

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