We have recently reported on the genetic organisation of a novel Krüppel-like zinc finger, ZNF189, located to 9q22-q31. In that study we found no mutations in the coding sequence when using ZNF189 as a candidate gene for sporadic basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer. Here, by direct sequencing of the proximal promotor of ZNF189, mutations were found to appear in a small hot-spot region in over 50% of analysed tumour samples, the majority being G to A substitutions. The hot-spot region spans a 24bp G-rich region. Repeated analyses of the original sample lysates fail to confirm each of these mutations; and frequently new mutations appear at neighbouring positions. Subsequent analysis with serial dilutions of genomic DNA and a cosmid harbouring the wild-type ZNF189 gene demonstrate that these sequence-specific alterations arise in the outer PCR-amplification when 50 copies or less of template are used. Although the mechanism of how these context-specific alterations arise is not proven, the results demonstrate a previously unreported type of PCR-mediated sequence-specific alteration that easily could have been interpreted as being of clinical relevance. The phenomena observed show that mutations detected by direct sequencing can be caused by PCR-introduced alterations. Consequently, this should be of general caution in mutation analysis of disease gene candidates when using small amounts of template, such as microdissected biopsies.
1999. Vol. 235, no 1-2