There is evidence supporting a multistep genetic model for colorectal tumorigenesis. In familial adenomatosis polyposis (FAP), the inherited defect is a mutation in the APC gene. The vast majority of all sporadic colorectal cancers also show mutations in the APC gene, and the tumorigenesis in sporadic colorectal cancer and FAP is assumed to involve the same genes. Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) is associated with germline mutations in DNA mismatch repair genes and, as a result of defective mismatch repair, microsatellite instability (MSI) is frequently seen. Tumorigenesis in HNPCC was first thought to involve mutations in the same genes as in FAP and sporadic colorectal cancer. Recently, however, an alternative pathway to development of colorectal cancer has been suggested in colorectal tumors with MSI, compared to those tumors without the MSI phenotype. We used a consecutive series of 191 sporadic colorectal cancers to find out if there were any differences between the two groups of tumors regarding the prevalence of mutations in the APC, KRAS, TP53, and TGFbetaR2 genes. As expected, 86% (19/22) of MSI-positive tumors showed a mutation in TGFbetaR2, while only one of 164 (0.6%) MSI-negative tumors did. A highly statistically significant negative association was found between MSI and alterations in APC and TP53. The MSI-positive tumors were screened for mutations in exon 3 of beta-catenin, which has been suggested to substitute for the APC mutation in the genesis of colorectal cancer, without finding mutations in any of the 22 MSI-positive tumors. The number of mutations found in KRAS was lower in MSI-positive than in MSI-negative tumors but the difference was not statistically significant. Our results strongly support the idea that carcinogenesis in MSI-positive and MSI-negative colorectal cancer develops through different pathways.
Copyright 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.