Background: We examined a technique for detecting point mutations of K-ras codon 12 in stool samples using one-step polymerase chain reaction/restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR/RFLP) analysis, in order to determine whether it could be used to screen for colorectal cancer.
Methods: DNA was extracted from 200-mg stool specimens of 5 healthy controls and 31 colorectal cancer patients. A 107-base-pair fragment of exon 1 of K-ras was amplified by PCR using mismatched primers. PCR products were digested with Bst NI and analyzed by gel electrophoresis followed by silver staining. Specificity of one-step PCR/RFLP was examined by using synthetic oligonucleotides. The detection limit of K-ras codon 12 mutations was determined by using SW480 and HT29 cells.
Results: The K-ras gene was successfully amplified from all healthy controls and colorectal cancer patients studied. Mutations of K-ras codon 12 were not detected in any of the healthy controls, but were identified in 13 (41.9%) of the 31 patients with colorectal cancer. Mutations were detectable in all six synthetic mutant DNAs, while none were detected among the wild type. The detection limit of this method was > or = 0.1%.
Conclusions: PCR/RFLP analysis could be used in mass screening for colorectal cancer, because it is highly specific, has a low detection limit, and is simpler than conventional methods for detecting genetic abnormalities.