The c-kit proto-oncogene encodes a receptor tyrosine kinase that is known to play a crucial role in hematopoiesis, especially in mast cell growth and differentiation. Although a number of dominant loss-of- function mutations of c-kit gene have been well characterized in mice, rats, and humans, little is known about the c-kit mutations contributing to ligand-independent activation of the c-kit receptor tyrosine kinase (KIT). In a murine mastocytoma cell line, P-815, KIT has been found to be constitutively phosphorylated on tyrosine and activated in a ligand-independent manner. Sequencing of the whole coding region of c-kit cDNA showed that c-kit cDNA of P-815 cells carries a point mutation in codon 814, resulting in amino acid substitution of Tyr for Asp. Murine wild-type c-kit cDNA and mutant- type c-kit cDNA encoding Tyr in codon 814 were expressed in cells of a human embryonic kidney cell line, 293T. In the transfected cells, mutant-form KITTyr814 was strikingly phosphorylated on tyrosine and activated in immune complex kinase reaction regardless of stimulation with a ligand for KIT (stem cell factor), whereas tyrosine phosphorylation and activation was barely detectable in wild-form KIT. The data presented here provide evidence for a novel activating mutation of c-kit gene that might be involved in neoplastic growth or oncogenesis of some cell types, including mast cells.

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