Genetic, physiological and environmental factors are implicated in colorectal carcinogenesis. Mutations in the mutL homolog 1 (MLH1) gene, one of the DNA mismatch repair genes, are a main cause of hereditary colon cancer syndromes such as Lynch syndrome. Long-term chronic inflammation is also a key risk factor, responsible for colitis-associated colorectal cancer; radiation exposure is also known to increase colorectal cancer risk. Here, we studied the effects of radiation exposure on inflammation-induced colon carcinogenesis in DNA mismatch repair-proficient and repair-deficient mice. Male and female Mlh1(-/-) and Mlh1(+/+) mice were irradiated with 2 Gy X-rays when aged 2 weeks or 7 weeks and/or were treated with 1% dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) in drinking water for 7 days at 10 weeks old to induce mild inflammatory colitis. No colon tumors developed after X-rays and/or DSS treatment in Mlh1(+/+) mice. Colon tumors developed after DSS treatment alone in Mlh1(-/-) mice, and exposure to radiation prior to DSS treatment increased the number of tumors. Histologically, colon tumors in the mice resembled the subtype of well-to-moderately differentiated adenocarcinomas with tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes of human Lynch syndrome. Immunohistochemistry revealed that expression of both p53 and β-catenin and loss of p21 and adenomatosis polyposis coli proteins were observed at the later stages of carcinogenesis, suggesting a course of molecular pathogenesis distinct from typical sporadic or colitis-associated colon cancer in humans. In conclusion, radiation exposure could further increase the risk of colorectal carcinogenesis induced by inflammation under the conditions of Mlh1 deficiency.
Keywords: Colon carcinogenesis; Lynch syndrome; Mlh1; inflammation; radiation.
© 2014 The Authors. Cancer Science published by Wiley Publishing Asia Pty Ltd on behalf of Japanese Cancer Association.