N-Ethyl-N-nitrosourea (ENU) and N-methyl-N-nitrosourea (MNU) are alkylating agents which respectively ethylate or methylate nucleophilic centers in the cell such as DNA. In vitro studies with naked DNA and bacterial mutagenesis assays suggest that these two compounds induce different spectra of genetic lesions. In addition, the ethyl-DNA adducts induced by ENU persist longer than the methyl-DNA adducts induced by MNU. Since MNU is a known mammary carcinogen in the pituitary-isografted mouse, these data suggest that ENU may be an even more potent carcinogen than MNU. The purpose of this study was to determine whether ENU was a mammary carcinogen in the pituitary-isografted mouse and if so, to compare the genotype and phenotype of ENU-induced mammary tumors with those induced by MNU. Fifteen adult female virgin BALB/c mice were isografted with two pituitaries and subsequently treated with a single intravenous injection of ENU (50 μg/g body weight). Mammary adenocarcinomas arose in all of the survivors (n = 12) with a median latency of 27 weeks and a mean frequency of 1.4 cancers per mouse. When tumor DNA was analyzed for mutations in the 12th and 61st codons of c-Ki-ras or c-Ha-ras protooncogenes, only wild type sequences were found. This is in contrast to MNU which causes a G to A transition mutation in the 12th codon of the c-Ha-ras proto-oncogene in about one of five mammary cancers induced in pituitary-isografted mice. Furthermore, the ENU-induced tumors were solid viable papillary adenocarcinomas, whereas MNU induced tumors are highly necrotic adenocarcinomas with squamous metaplasia. These results demonstrate that, in the pituitary-isografted mouse, ENU is as potent a mammary carcinogen as MNU and suggest that oncogenes other than c-Ki-ras or c-Ha-ras may be involved in ENU-induced mammary cancers.
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