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Hum Mol Genet. 2002 May 15;11(11):1303-10.

Functional analysis of MSH6 mutations linked to kindreds with putative hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer syndrome.

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Department of Biosciences, Division of Genetics, University of Helsinki, FIN-00014 Helsinki, Finland.


To date, five mismatch-repair (MMR) genes, MLH1, MSH2, MSH6, MSH3 and PMS2, are known to be involved in human MMR function. Two of those, MLH1 and MSH2, are further the most common susceptibility genes for hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), while MSH3 and PMS2 are seldom (PMS2) or not at all (MSH3 ) reported to be involved in HNPCC. Despite the increasing number of MSH6 germline mutations, their pathogenicity remains questionable, because the mutations are mainly linked to putative HNPCC families lacking the typical clinical and molecular characteristics of the syndrome, such as early age at onset and high microsatellite instability (MSI). High MSI is a consequence of MMR defect, and the pathogenicity of germline mutations in HNPCC is thus linked to malfunction of MMR. To address the question of whether and how MSH6 mutations cause susceptibility to HNPCC, we studied heterodimerization of four MSH6 variants with MSH2, and the functionality of these MutSalpha complexes in an in vitro MMR assay. All mutations occurred in putative HNPCC patients. Irrespective of the type or the site of the amino acid substitutions, all the variants repaired G.T mismatches to A.T as wild-type MSH6 protein. However, the MSH6 protein carrying a mutation in the MSH2/MSH6 interaction region was poorly expressed, suggesting problems in its stability. Our results are clinically relevant, since they demonstrate that under the stable in vitro conditions, when the amounts of the proteins are adequate for repair, the tested MSH6 mutations do not affect repair function. Consequently, while the typical HNPCC syndrome is associated with problems in repair reaction, the pathogenicity of mutations in putative HNPCC families may be linked to other biochemical events.

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