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Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.
Retinoblastoma and osteosarcoma arise from cells that have lost both functional copies of the retinoblastoma gene. Using the cloned retinoblastoma gene and other linked polymorphic loci, it is possible to reconstruct the sequential loss of the two homologous gene copies that precedes the development of these tumours. In non-hereditary tumours, the loss of each of the two homologues occurs somatically; in hereditary cases, the initial mutation is in the germline. Recently, Toguchida et al. reported that the paternally derived copy is preferentially the first one to become mutant during the genesis of non-hereditary osteosarcomas. We report here a similar analysis of patients with retinoblastoma in which we find no such predilection for initial somatic mutations. In contrast, when an initial mutation was a new germline mutation, it was derived from the father, a result which is consistent with new germline mutations arising primarily during spermatogenesis.