In vivo DNA deletion assay to detect environmental and genetic predisposition to cancer

Methods Mol Biol. 2004;262:125-39. doi: 10.1385/1-59259-761-0:125.


Large-scale genomic rearrangements such as DNA deletions play a role in the etiology of cancer. The frequency of DNA deletions can be elevated by exposure to carcinogens or by mutations in genes involved in the maintenance of genomic integrity. The in vivo DNA deletion assay allows a visual detection of deletion events within the pink-eyed unstable (pun) locus in developing mouse embryos. A deletion of one copy of a duplicated 70-kb DNA fragment within the pun locus restores the pink-eyed dilute (p) gene, which encodes a protein responsible for the assembly of a black color melanin complex. Deletion events occurring in premelanocytes cause visible black patches (fur-spots) on the light gray fur of offspring and black pigmented cells (eye-spots) on the unpigmented retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). In the fur-spot assay, 10-d-old pups are observed for black spots on the fur. In the eye-spot assay, mice are sacrificed at d 20, eyes are removed, and the wholemount RPE slides are prepared for eye-spot analysis. The frequency, size, and position relative to the optic nerve of the eye-spots are determined. This assay can be used to study the effect of environmental chemicals and physical agents as well as the genetic control of DNA deletions in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA / genetics
  • Environment
  • Eye Color / genetics*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Genetic
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Pigment Epithelium of Eye / pathology
  • Recombination, Genetic / genetics
  • Sequence Deletion / genetics*


  • DNA