Background: Patients with advanced microsatellite unstable colorectal cancers do not show a survival benefit from 5-fluorouracil (5-FU)-based chemotherapy. We and others have shown that the DNA mismatch repair (MMR) complex hMutSα binds 5-FU incorporated into DNA. Although hMutSß is known to interact with interstrand crosslinks (ICLs) induced by drugs such as cisplatin and psoralen, it has not been demonstrated to interact with 5-FU incorporated into DNA. Our aim was to examine if hMutSß plays a role in 5-FU recognition.
Methods: We compared the normalized growth of 5-FU treated cells containing either or both mismatch repair complexes using MTT and clonogenic assays. We utilized oligonucleotides containing 5-FU and purified baculovirus-synthesized hMutSα and hMutSß in electromobility shift assays (EMSA) and further analyzed binding using surface plasmon resonance.
Results: MTT and clonogenic assays after 5-FU treatment demonstrated the most cytotoxicity in cells with both hMutSα and hMutSß, intermediate cytotoxicity in cells with hMutSα alone, and the least cytotoxicity in cells with hMutSß alone, hMutSß binds 5-FU-modified DNA, but its relative binding is less than the binding of 5-FU-modified DNA by hMutSα.
Conclusion: Cytotoxicity induced by 5-FU is dependent on intact DNA MMR, with relative cell death correlating directly with hMutSα and/or hMutSß 5-FU binding ability (hMutSα>hMutSß). The MMR complexes provide a hierarchical chemosensitivity for 5-FU cell death, and may have implications for treatment of patients with certain MMR-deficient tumors.