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Am J Pathol. 2004 Apr;164(4):1369-77.

Enhanced stem cell survival in familial adenomatous polyposis.

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Department of Pathology, University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA.


Individuals with heterozygous germline adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) mutations or familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) are born with normal appearing colons but later develop hundreds to thousands of polyps. Tumor progression apparently starts after somatic loss of the normal APC allele, but germline APC mutations may potentially alter niche stem cell survival through dominant-negative interactions or haploinsufficiency. Although morphologically occult, altered stem cell turnover or clonal evolution rates may be detected by measuring the diversity of crypt sequences, with greater diversity expected with longer lived stem cell lineages. Methylation pattern diversity (numbers of unique patterns per crypt) was higher in normal appearing crypts from four of five FAP colons compared to six non-FAP colons and one attenuated FAP colon. Simulations indicate higher FAP crypt diversity is consistent with slower clonal evolution from enhanced stem cell survival, either through increased stem cell numbers or decreased stem cell lineage extinction, which is predicted to increase progression rates to cancer. Enhanced stem cell survival was associated with APC mutations that remove some but not all catenin-binding repeats. Therefore, some APC mutations may be common in colorectal cancers because they confer occult pretumor "caretaker" and "gatekeeper" defects. FAP crypts accumulate more alterations from slower stem cell clonal evolution rather than increased error rates. In non-FAP crypts, enhanced stem cell survival conferred by somatic heterozygous APC mutations would favor fixation through occult clonal niche expansions. Heterozygous APC mutations may change stem cell survival during colorectal pretumor progression.

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