Activating and dominant inactivating c-KIT catalytic domain mutations in distinct clinical forms of human mastocytosis.
Human mastocytosis is characterized by increased mast cells. It usually occurs as a sporadic disease that is often transient and limited in children and persistent or progressive in adults. The c-KIT protooncogene encodes KIT, a tyrosine kinase that is the receptor for mast cell growth factor. Because mutated KIT can transform cells, we examined c-KIT in skin lesions of 22 patients with sporadic mastocytosis and 3 patients with familial mastocytosis. All patients with adult sporadic mastocytosis had somatic c-KIT mutations in codon 816 causing substitution of valine for aspartate and spontaneous activation of mast cell growth factor receptor (P = 0.0001). A subset of four pediatric onset cases with clinically unusual disease also had codon 816 activating mutations substituting valine, tyrosine, or phenylalanine for aspartate. Typical pediatric patients lacked 816 mutations, but limited sequencing showed three of six had a novel dominant inactivating mutation substituting lysine for glutamic acid in position 839, the site of a potential salt bridge that is highly conserved in receptor tyrosine kinases. No c-KIT mutations were found in the entire coding region of three patients with familial mastocytosis. We conclude that c-KIT somatic mutations substituting valine in position 816 of KIT are characteristic of sporadic adult mastocytosis and may cause this disease. Similar mutations causing activation of the mast cell growth factor receptor are found in children apparently at risk for extensive or persistent disease. In contrast, typical pediatric mastocytosis patients lack these mutations and may express inactivating c-KIT mutations. Familial mastocytosis, however, may occur in the absence of c-KIT coding mutations.