Altered structure and regulation of the c-myc proto-oncogene have been associated with a variety of human tumours and derivative cell lines, including Burkitt's lymphoma1,2, promyelocytic leukaemia3,4 and small cell lung cancer (SCLC)5. The N-myc gene, first detected by its homology to the second exon of the c-myc gene, is amplified and/or expressed in tumours or cell lines derived from neuroblastoma6-8, retinoblastoma9 and SCLC10. Here we describe a third myc-related gene (L-myc) cloned from SCLC DNA with homology to a small region of both the c-myc and N-myc genes. Human genomic DNA shows an EcoRI restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) of L-myc defined by two alleles (10.0- and 6.6-kilobase (kb) EcoRI fragments), neither associated disproportionately with SCLC. Mouse and hamster DNAs exhibit a 12-kb EcoRI L-myc homologue, which indicates conservation of the gene in mammals. Gene mapping studies assign L-myc to human chromosome region Ip32, a location distinct from that of either c-myc1,11 or N-myc12 but associated with cytogenetic abnormalities in certain human tumours13. This L-myc sequence is amplified 10-20-fold in four SCLC cell line DNAs and in one SCLC tumour specimen taken directly from a patient. Either the 10.0- or 6.6-kb allele can be amplified and in heterozygotes only one of the two alleles was amplified in any SCLC genome. SCLC cell lines with amplified L-myc sequences express L-myc-derived transcripts not seen in SCLC with amplified c-myc or N-myc genes. In addition, some SCLCs without amplification also express L-myc-related transcripts. Together, these findings suggest an enlarging role for myc-related genes in human lung cancer and provide evidence for the concept of a myc family of proto-oncogenes.
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