Defects in mismatch repair function can lead to the microsatellite instability (MI+; replication error) phenotype in certain human cancers. We previously reported that MI+ tumor-specific repeat number alteration at 13 consecutive trinucleotide (CAG) repeats within a coding exon of the E2F4 gene is a possible target of the defective repair pathway. Additional investigations revealed that E2F4 mutations are common (11 of 17 cases, 65%, mostly deletions) in a subset of human colorectal cancers with extensive MI+ phenotype, with respect to the proportion of loci affected and that most of these E2F4-mutated tumors (9 of 11, 82%) were accompanied by frameshift mutations in a polyadenine stretch within the seventh exon of the hMSH3 gene, a known mismatch repair gene that is responsible for repair of mismatch loops of two to four nucleotides. However, neither of these mutations was detected in 15 tumors with a lower incidence of MI+ loci. Similar repeat number alterations were less frequent in CAG repeats from other genes in all of the MI+ tumors we examined. These results indicate the presence of a novel cascade of mutational events that may be involved in acquisition of the malignant phenotype of human colorectal cancers with genetic instability.
Supported by Grants-in-Aid 07671306, 08671368 (to N. M.) 07272103, and 08457049 from the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture and by grants-in-aid from the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Japan (to K. S.).