The serrated neoplasia pathway of colorectal tumors: Identification of MUC5AC hypomethylation as an early marker of polyps with malignant potential

Int J Cancer. 2016 Mar 15;138(6):1472-81. doi: 10.1002/ijc.29891. Epub 2015 Oct 30.


The serrated neoplasia pathway accounts for 20-30% of colorectal cancers (CRC), which are characterized by extensive methylation (CpG island methylation phenotype, CIMP), frequent BRAF mutation and high microsatellite instability (MSI). We recently identified MUC5AC mucin gene hypomethylation as a specific marker of MSI CRC. The early identification of preneoplastic lesions among serrated polyps is currently challenging. Here, we performed a detailed pathological and molecular analysis of a large series of colorectal serrated polyps and evaluated the usefulness of mucin genes MUC2 and MUC5AC to differentiate serrated polyps and to identify lesions with malignant potential. A series of 330 colorectal polyps including 218 serrated polyps [42 goblet cell-rich hyperplastic polyps (GCHP), 68 microvesicular hyperplastic polyps (MVHP), 100 sessile serrated adenoma (SSA) and eight traditional serrated adenoma (TSA)] and 112 conventional adenomas was analyzed for BRAF/KRAS mutations, MSI, CIMP, MLH1 and MGMT methylation, and MUC2 and MUC5AC expression and methylation. We show that MUC5AC hypomethylation is an early event in the serrated neoplasia pathway, and specifically detects MVHP and SSA, arguing for a filiation between MVHP, SSA and CIMP-H/MSI CRC, whereas GCHP and TSA arise from a distinct pathway. Moreover, MUC5AC hypomethylation specifically identified serrated lesions with BRAF mutation, CIMP-H or MSI, suggesting that it may be useful to identify serrated neoplasia pathway-related precursor lesions. Our data suggest that MVHP should be recognized among HP and require particular attention.

Keywords: colonic cancer; hyperplastic polyp; methylation; mucin; sessile serrated adenoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Colonic Polyps / genetics*
  • Colonic Polyps / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microsatellite Instability
  • Middle Aged
  • Mucin 5AC / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Prognosis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf / genetics
  • ras Proteins / genetics


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Mucin 5AC
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins B-raf
  • ras Proteins