Manipulation of nonsense mediated decay identifies gene mutations in colon cancer Cells with microsatellite instability

Oncogene. 2004 Jan 22;23(3):639-45. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1207178.


Cancer cells showing microsatellite instability (MSI) demonstrate a high frequency of acquired frameshift mutations that result in the generation of nonsense mutations. RNA transcripts carrying these nonsense mutations are usually targeted for degradation through the nonsense mediated decay (NMD) pathway. Blocking this pathway with drugs such as emitine, results in the 'stabilization' of these mutant transcripts, which can now be detected on cDNA arrays. Unfortunately, emetine also induces a stress response that results in upregulation of additional transcripts which contribute to the analysis of the array. As a result, identifying which genes truly carry nonsense mutations is made more difficult. To overcome this, we have combined the emetine treatment with actinomycin D, which effectively prevents the upregulation of stress response genes while still stabilizing mutant transcripts. When we applied this modified approach to the analysis of MSI-positive colon cancer cells, we identified mutations in the UVRAG and p300 genes.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Codon, Nonsense*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • DNA, Complementary
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Microsatellite Repeats / genetics*
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Codon, Nonsense
  • DNA, Complementary