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Abstract

A peculiar point mutation results in constitutive activation of c-kit receptor tyrosine kinase (KIT) in three different tumor mast cell lines; ie, the HMC-1, P-815, and RBL-2H3. Because constitutive activation of KIT was also observed in the FMA3 mouse mastocytoma cell line, we investigated the molecular mechanism. Sequencing of the whole coding region of the c-kit showed that the point mutation found in HMC- 1, P-815, and RBL-2H3 cells was absent in FMA3 cells and that the c-kit cDNA of FMA3 cells carried an in-frame deletion of 21 base pairs (bp) encoding Thr-Gln-Leu-Pro-Tyr-Asp-His at codons 573 to 579 at the juxtamembrane domain. The FMA3-type c-kit cDNA with 21 bp deletion was introduced into the IC-2 cell line, which was derived from murine cultured mast cells. IC-2 cells were dependent on interleukin (IL)-3 and did not express KIT on the surface. In IC-2 cells introduced with the FMA3-type c-kit cDNA, KIT was constitutively phosphorylated on tyrosines and activated. Moreover, the FMA3-type KIT was dimerized without the stimulation by stem cell factor (SCF), a ligand for KIT. The spontaneously dimerized FMA3-type KIT without SCF binding was not internalized even after the activation. IC-2 cells expressing the FMA3- type KIT grew in suspension culture without IL-3 and SCF and became leukemic in nude athymic mice. The deletion of seven amino acids at the juxtamembrane domain appeared to be a new activating mutation of KIT that might be involved in neoplastic growth of mast cells.