MLH1 and MSH2 protein expression as a pre-screening marker in hereditary and non-hereditary endometrial hyperplasia and cancer

Int J Cancer. 2001 May 1;92(3):398-403. doi: 10.1002/ijc.1206.


The predictive value of MLH1 or MSH2 protein expression for the presence of truncating germline mutations was examined in benign and (pre)malignant endometrial samples from 3 patient groups: (I) 10 endometrial cancer patients from hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) families with (n = 6) or without (n = 4) a known germline mutation; (II) 15 women from HNPCC families with (n = 7) or without (n = 8) a known germline mutation, who underwent endometrial sampling for non-malignant reasons; (III) 38 endometrial cancer patients <50 years of age, without HNPCC family history. Immunostaining for MLH1 and MSH2 was performed on paraffin-embedded sections. In group III, tumor DNA was examined for microsatellite instability (MSI) and MLH1, MSH2 and MSH6 mutation analysis was carried out. In 6/6 MLH1/MSH2 mutation carriers with endometrial cancer (group I), concordance was found between protein loss in the tumor and the corresponding mutation. In 3 MLH1 mutation carriers, MLH1 protein loss was also observed in concurrent endometrial hyperplasia. In group II, no protein loss was detected in normal endometrial tissue samples; in 3/4 patients with endometrial hyperplasia, MLH1/MSH2 protein loss was observed. In group III, protein loss was detected in 12/38 patients (9 MLH1, 3 MSH2), while in 3/11 patients with concurrent endometrial hyperplasia protein loss was also observed in the hyperplasia. MSI analysis in group III revealed 26 MSI-low and 12 MSI-high tumors. Mutation analysis in 28/38 patients showed only 1 missense MSH6 and no MLH1 or MSH2 germline mutations. In group III, loss of MLH1/MSH2 protein expression was not related to the presence of MSI or MLH1/MSH2 germline mutations. In conclusion, MLH1 or MSH2 protein loss in HNPCC-related endometrial neoplasia is strongly related to corresponding germline mutations. This relation was not clearly present in young sporadic endometrial cancer patients. Immunohistochemical pre-screening of the MLH1 and MSH2 proteins in endometrial hyperplasia or cancer can thus be helpful in HNPCC families. Frequent loss of MLH1 or MSH2 protein in endometrial hyperplasia indicates that this loss is an early event in endometrial carcinogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / biosynthesis*
  • Carrier Proteins
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • DNA-Binding Proteins*
  • Endometrial Hyperplasia / diagnosis
  • Endometrial Hyperplasia / genetics
  • Endometrial Hyperplasia / metabolism*
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / genetics
  • Endometrial Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Germ-Line Mutation
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microsatellite Repeats / genetics
  • Middle Aged
  • MutL Protein Homolog 1
  • MutS Homolog 2 Protein
  • Neoplasm Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Prognosis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / biosynthesis*


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Carrier Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • MLH1 protein, human
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • MSH2 protein, human
  • MutL Protein Homolog 1
  • MutS Homolog 2 Protein