The use of exogeneous DNA probes, which replicate extrachromosomally, is proposed in order to study spontaneous and induced mutagenesis in mammalian cells. Simian virus 40 has already proved to be very useful, since it has provided much important information in this field. Recently, several shuttle vectors have been designed for this purpose; however, it seems that these molecules have high spontaneous mutation frequencies when replicating in mammalian cells. We have developed new alternative systems, such as Epstein-Barr virus-based shuttle vectors that can be episomally maintained in human cells. Furthermore, we have constructed packageable shuttle vectors, which appear to be stable in the host cell and thus suitable for analysis of mutagenesis.

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