Frank, S. A. 2003. Somatic mosaicism and cancer: inference based on a conditional Luria-Delbrück distribution. Journal of Theoretical Biology 223:405-412.

Somatic mosaicism for mutations in disease-causing genes has been reported in several recent studies. Examples include hemophilia A, many skin disorders, and several cancers such as retinoblastoma and familial adenomatous polyposis. Many of these disorders require multiple mutations in order to express the disease phenotype. For example, two recessive mutations to the retinoblastoma locus are required to initiate retinoblastomal tumors. I develop a mathematical framework for somatic mosaicism in which two recessive mutations cause disease. With my framework, I analyse the following question: Given an observed frequency of cells with two mutations and an easily scored aberrant phenotype, what is the conditional frequency distribution of cells carrying one mutation and therefore susceptible to transformation by a second mutation? This question is important because a high frequency of carrier cells can cause genetic counselors to misdiagnose a mosaic as an inherited heterozygote carrier and because widespread mosaicism can lead to some germline transmission. As more data accumulate, the observed distribution of mosaics can be compared against my predicted distribution. These sorts of studies will contribute to a broader understanding of the distribution of somatic mutations, a central topic in the study of cancer.


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