p53 mutations as fingerprints for aristolochic acid: an environmental carcinogen in endemic (Balkan) nephropathy

Neda Slade, Ute M Moll, Branko Brdar, Arijana Zorić, Bojan Jelaković
Mutation Research 2009 April 26, 663 (1-2): 1-6
The activation of protooncogenes and inactivation of tumor suppressor genes are considered to be the main molecular events in the multistep process of carcinogenesis. Mutations of the TP53 tumor suppressor gene have been found in nearly all tumor types and are estimated to contribute to more than 50% of all cancers. Most mutations lead to the synthesis of highly stable, inactive proteins that accumulate in the nucleus of cancer cells. Among the 393 codons of the human p53 gene, 222 are targets of 698 different types of mutations. Alterations of codons 175, 248, 273 and 282 correspond to 19% of all mutations and are considered general hot spot mutations. Dietary exposure to aristolochic acid (AA), an established nephrotoxin and human carcinogen found in all Aristolochia species was shown to be the causative agent of aristolochic acid nephropathy (previously called Chinese herbs nephropathy). This syndrome is characterized by proximal tubular damage, renal interstitial fibrosis, slow progression to the end stage renal disease and a high prevalence of upper urinary tract urothelial carcinoma (otherwise a highly unusual location). AA preferentially binds to purines in DNA and is associated with a high frequency of A-->T transversions in the p53 gene. Rats treated with AA develop A:T-->T:A mutations in codon 61. The pathological and clinical features of endemic (Balkan) nephropathy closely resemble those associated with aristolochic acid nephropathy except for the slower progression to end stage renal disease and longer cumulative period before the appearance of urothelial cancer. Recently, we reported the presence of AA-DNA adducts in renal cortex and A-->T p53 mutations in tumor tissue of patients from Croatia and Bosnia with endemic nephropathy. These data support the hypothesis that dietary exposure to AA is a major risk factor for endemic (Balkan) nephropathy.

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