An ELISA-based high throughput protein truncation test for inherited breast cancer

Breast Cancer Res. 2010;12(5):R78. doi: 10.1186/bcr2722. Epub 2010 Oct 4.


Introduction: Breast cancer is the most diagnosed and second leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. female population. An estimated 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers are inherited, caused by mutations in the breast cancer susceptibility genes (BRCA1/2). As many as 90% of all mutations are nonsense mutations, causing a truncated polypeptide product. A popular and low cost method of mutation detection has been the protein truncation test (PTT), where target regions of BRCA1/2 are PCR amplified, transcribed/translated in a cell-free protein synthesis system and analyzed for truncated polypeptides by sodium dodecyl sulfate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and autoradiography. We previously reported a novel High Throughput Solid-Phase PTT (HTS-PTT) based on an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) format that eliminates the need for radioactivity, SDS-PAGE and subjective interpretation of the results. Here, we report the next generation HTS-PTT using triple-epitope-tagged proteins and demonstrate, for the first time, its efficacy on clinical genomic DNA samples for BRCA1/2 analysis.

Methods: Segments of exons 11 of BRCA1/2 open reading frames were PCR amplified from either blood derived genomic DNA or cell line mRNA. PCR primers incorporate elements for cell-free transcription/translation and epitope tagging. Cell-free expressed nascent proteins are then antibody-captured onto the wells of a microtiter plate and the relative amount of truncated polypeptide measured using antibodies against the N- and C-terminal epitope tags in an ELISA format.

Results: 100% diagnostic sensitivity and 96% specificity for truncating mutations in exons 11 of BRCA1/2 was achieved on one hundred blood-derived clinical genomic DNA samples which were previously assayed using the conventional gel based PTT. Feasibility of full gene coverage for BRCA1/2 using mRNA source material is also demonstrated.

Conclusions: Overall, the HTS-PTT provides a simple, quantitative, objective, low cost and high throughput method for analysis of truncating mutations as an alternative to gel based PTT for BRCA analysis. The technology is readily accessible to virtually any laboratory, with the only major instrumentation required being a PCR thermocycler and a basic micro-well plate reader. When compared to conventional gel based PTT, the HTS-PTT provides excellent concordance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • BRCA1 Protein / analysis*
  • BRCA1 Protein / genetics
  • BRCA2 Protein / analysis*
  • BRCA2 Protein / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Genes, BRCA1
  • Genes, BRCA2
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays / methods*
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasm Proteins / analysis
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics


  • BRCA1 Protein
  • BRCA1 protein, human
  • BRCA2 Protein
  • BRCA2 protein, human
  • Neoplasm Proteins