Background & aims: Inherited deleterious mutations in mismatch repair genes MLH1, MSH2, and MSH6 predispose to hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer. A major diagnostic challenge is the difficulty in evaluating the pathogenicity of missense mutations. Previously we showed that most missense variants in MSH6 do not impair MMR capability and are associated with no or low cancer susceptibility, whereas in MLH1, functional studies distinguished nontruncating mutations with severe defects from those not or slightly impaired in protein expression or function. The present study was undertaken to evaluate the pathogenicity of inherited missense mutations in MSH2.
Methods: Fifteen mutated MSH2 proteins including 14 amino acid substitutions and one in-frame deletion were tested for expression/stability, MSH2/MSH6 interaction, and repair efficiency. The genetic and biochemical data were correlated with the clinical data. Comparative sequence analysis was performed to assess the value of sequence homology as a tool for predicting functional results.
Results: None of the studied MSH2 mutations destroyed the protein or abolished MSH2/MSH6 interaction, whereas 12 mutations impaired the repair capability of the protein. Comparative sequence analysis correctly predicted functional studies for 13 of 14 amino acid substitutions.
Conclusions: Interpretation was pathogenic for 12, nonpathogenic for 2, and contradictory for 1 mutation. The pathogenicity could not be distinguished unambiguously by phenotypic characteristics, although correlation between the absence of staining for MSH2 and pathogenicity of the missense mutation was notable. Unlike in MSH6 and MLH1, the pathogenicity of missense mutations in MSH2 was always associated with impaired repair capability of the mutated protein.