Association of low-risk MSH3 and MSH2 variant alleles with Lynch syndrome: probability of synergistic effects

Int J Cancer. 2011 Oct 1;129(7):1643-50. doi: 10.1002/ijc.25824. Epub 2011 Apr 25.


Mutations in the MLH1 and MSH2 genes account for a majority of cases of families with Lynch Syndrome. Germ-line mutations in MSH6, PMS2 and MLH3 are responsible for disease in a minority of cases, usually associated with milder and variable phenotypes. No germ-line mutations in MSH3 have so far been associated with Lynch Syndrome, although it is known that impaired MSH3 activity leads to a partial defect in mismatch repair (MMR), with low levels of microsatellite instability at the loci with dinucleotide repeats in colorectal cancer (CRC), thus suggesting a role for MSH3 in carcinogenesis. To determine a possible role of MSH3 as predisposing to CRC in Lynch syndrome, we screened MSH3 for germ-line mutations in 79 unrelated Lynch patients who were negative for pathogenetic mutations in MLH1, MSH2 and MSH6. We found 13 mutant alleles, including silent, missense and intronic variants. These variants were identified through denaturing high performance liquid chromatography and subsequent DNA sequencing. In one Lynch family, the index case with early-onset colon cancer was a carrier of a polymorphism in the MSH2 gene and two variants in the MSH3 gene. These variants were associated with the disease in the family, thus suggesting the involvement of MSH3 in colon tumour progression. We hypothesise a model in which variants of the MSH3 gene behave as low-risk alleles that contribute to the risk of colon cancer in Lynch families, mostly with other low-risk alleles of MMR genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Colorectal Neoplasms, Hereditary Nonpolyposis / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Humans
  • MutS Homolog 2 Protein / genetics*
  • MutS Homolog 3 Protein
  • Mutation*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • MSH3 protein, human
  • MutS Homolog 3 Protein
  • MSH2 protein, human
  • MutS Homolog 2 Protein