The human genome and related projects have resulted in the isolation of a rapidly growing number of genes that cause susceptibility to human cancer. With rare exception, these genes are large and have disease-associated mutations scattered along the length of the genes. Therefore, the development of accurate and cost-efficient mutation detection tests that can scan entire genes singly or in combination is warranted. hMLHl, encoding a mismatch repair enzyme, is a susceptibility gene for hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer syndrome. This gene comprises 19 exons; mutations are scattered, typical of many susceptibility genes. Here, we present a strategy that combines extensive PCR multiplexing and two-dimensional DNA electrophoresis (Two-Dimensional Gene Scanning, TDGS) to scan accurately for mutations that lie within the exons and splice junctions of hMLHl. All target fragments, designed to have optimal melting characteristics, were prepared in a two-stage PCR—a four-plex long-distance PCR followed by short PCR in two multiplex groups of 10 and 11 amplicons. The mixture of amplicons was subjected to two-dimensional electrophoresis: separation by size in the first dimension and by melting characteristics in the second. Using this design, 41 samples containing known hMLHl sequence variants or no alterations were blindly subjected to TDGS. All mutations were detected; there were no genuine false-positive or false-negative results. These results confirm that TDGS is a generally applicable, rapid, accurate, and reproducible mutation detection technology that would serve largescale molecular epidemiologic studies as well as clinical molecular diagnostic purposes.
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