Colorectal carcinomas with high microsatellite instability: defining a distinct immunologic and molecular entity with respect to prognostic markers

Hum Pathol. 2000 Dec;31(12):1506-14. doi: 10.1053/hupa.2000.20383.


Molecular analysis of hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal carcinomas (HNPCC) has identified DNA mismatch repair deficiencies with resulting microsatellite instability (MSI) as a pathway of carcinogenesis that appears to be relevant for prognosis, treatment, and possibly prevention. In this study, expression of cell cycle proteins and other known prognostic markers is correlated with the microsatellite status of colorectal cancers (CRC). One hundred consecutive cases from the CRC Registry at Thomas Jefferson University were analyzed for MSI. Immunohistochemistry was performed for the mismatch repair proteins hMLH1 and hMSH2, tumor suppressor p53, apoptosis inhibitor bcl-2, cell cycle proteins p21(WAF1/CIP1), and p27 and the proliferation markers Ki-67 and topoisomerase II. High MSI (MSI-H) is significantly correlated with loss of either hMLH1 or hMSH2, presence of bcl-2, and absence of p53. p21(WAF1/CIP1) is positive in all tumors with MSI-H. Previous findings of a lower proliferation rate were confirmed with a topoisomerase II stain. Microsatellite stable (MSS) tumors generally express both MSH2 and MLH1. Other highly significant differences are positive p53 in 56% of MSS cases and negative bcl-2 in 98% of MSS cases. p27 expression is found in approximately 50% of all CRCs irrespective of the microsatellite status. MSI-H tumors follow the mutator pathway, with loss of expression of one mismatch repair protein, wild-type p53, lower proliferation, and positivity for p21(WAF1/CIP1). MSS tumors follow the suppressor pathway, characterized by p53 overexpression, higher proliferation, and absence of bcl-2 expression; p21(WAF1/CIP1) expression can be variable. These data provide a molecular basis for the clinical observation that patients with HNPCC appear to have a more favorable prognosis. HUM PATHOL 31:1506-1514.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / chemistry
  • Adenoma / genetics
  • Adenoma / pathology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Carcinoma / chemistry
  • Carcinoma / genetics*
  • Carcinoma / pathology*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / analysis*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / immunology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • DNA, Neoplasm / analysis
  • Genes, DCC / genetics
  • Genetic Markers
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Microsatellite Repeats / genetics*
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • Genetic Markers