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Curr Biol. 1999 Aug 26;9(16):907-10.

Mutator phenotypes of common polymorphisms and missense mutations in MSH2.

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Laboratory of Molecular Genetics, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 27709, USA.


Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) is associated with germline mutations in the DNA mismatch repair gene hMSH2 [1], the human homologue of the Escherichia coli MutS gene. These are mostly nonsense, frameshift or deletion mutations that result in loss of intact protein and complete inactivation of DNA mismatch repair. However, cancer is also associated with hMSH2 missense mutations that are merely inferred to be deleterious because they result in non-conservative substitutions of amino acids that are highly conserved among MutS family proteins. Moreover, sequence polymorphisms exist in hMSH2 that also change conserved amino acids but whose functional consequences and relationship to cancer are uncertain. Here, we show that yeast strains harboring putative equivalents of three hMSH2 polymorphisms have elevated mutation rates. Mutator effects were also observed for yeast equivalents of hMSH2 missense mutations found in HNPCC families and in an early onset colon tumor. Several distinct phenotypes were observed, indicating that these missense mutations have differential effects on MSH2 function(s). The results suggest that cancer may be associated with even partial loss of hMSH2 function and they are consistent with the hypothesis that polymorphisms in hMSH2 might predispose humans to disease.

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