Somatic mutations have long been considered a possible cause of ageing. To directly study mutational events in organs and tissues of ageing mammals, a transgenic mouse model has been generated that harbours lacZ reporter genes as part of chromosomally integrated plasmids. Using this model, we determined spontaneous mutant frequencies and spectra in mouse liver end brain as a function of age. In the liver, mutant frequencies increased with age from birth to 34 months; in the brain, an increase was observed only between birth end 4-6 months. Molecular characterization of the mutations showed that a substantial portion involved genome rearrangement events, with one breakpoint in e reporter gene and the other in the mouse flanking sequence. In the liver, these genome rearrangements did not increase with age until after 27 months, when they increased rapidly. In brain, the frequency of genome rearrangements was lower than in liver and did not increase with age.
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