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Am J Hum Genet. 1999 Nov;65(5):1291-8.

Association of hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer-related tumors displaying low microsatellite instability with MSH6 germline mutations.

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Departments of Medical Genetics, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.


Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) (Amsterdam criteria) is often caused by mutations in mismatch repair (MMR) genes, and tumors of patients with HNPCC show microsatellite instability (MSI-high phenotype). Germline mutations of MMR genes have rarely been found in families that have HNPCC or suspected HNPCC and that do not show microsatellite instability (MSI-low phenotype). Therefore, an MSI-high phenotype is often used as an inclusion criterion for mutation testing of MMR genes. Correction of base-base mismatches is the major function of MSH6. Since mismatches present with an MSI-low phenotype, we assumed that the phenotype in patients with HNPCC-related tumors might be associated with MSH6 germline mutations. We divided 36 patients with suspected HNPCC into an MSI-low group (n=18) and an MSI-high group (n=18), on the basis of the results of MSI testing. Additionally, three unrelated patients from Amsterdam families with MSI-low tumors were investigated. All patients were screened for MSH2, MLH1, and MSH6 mutations. Four presumably causative MSH6 mutations were detected in the patients (22%) who had suspected HNPCC and MSI-low tumors. Furthermore, we detected one frameshift mutation in one of the three patients with HNPCC and MSI-low tumors. In the MSI-high group, one MSH6 missense mutation was found, but the same patient also had an MLH1 mutation, which may explain the MSI-high phenotype. These results suggest that MSH6 may be involved in a substantial proportion of patients with HNPCC or suspected HNPCC and MSI-low tumors. Our data emphasize that an MSI-low phenotype cannot be considered an exclusion criterion for mutation testing of MMR genes in general.

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