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The abundant chromosome abnormalities in most carcinomas are probably a reflection of genomic instability present in the tumor, so the pattern and variability of chromosome abnormalities will reflect the mechanism of instability combined with the effects of selection. Chromosome rearrangement was investigated in 17 colorectal carcinoma-derived cell lines. Comparative genomic hybridization showed that the chromosome changes were representative of those found in primary tumors. Spectral karyotyping (SKY) showed that translocations were very varied and mostly unbalanced, with no translocation occurring in more than three lines. At least three karyotype patterns could be distinguished. Some lines had few chromosome abnormalities: they all showed microsatellite instability, the replication error (RER)+ phenotype. Most lines had many chromosome abnormalities: at least seven showed a surprisingly consistent pattern, characterized by multiple unbalanced translocations and intermetaphase variation, with chromosome numbers around triploid, 6-16 structural aberrations, and similarities in gains and losses. Almost all of these were RER-, but one, LS411, was RER+. The line HCA7 showed a novel pattern, suggesting a third kind of genomic instability: multiple reciprocal translocations, with little numerical change or variability. This line was also RER+. The coexistence in one tumor of two kinds of genomic instability is to be expected if the underlying defects are selected for in tumor evolution.

Original publication




Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





2538 - 2543


Colorectal Neoplasms, Humans, Karyotyping, Translocation, Genetic, Tumor Cells, Cultured