Germline PMS2 and somatic POLE exonuclease mutations cause hypermutability of the leading DNA strand in biallelic mismatch repair deficiency syndrome brain tumours

J Pathol. 2017 Nov;243(3):331-341. doi: 10.1002/path.4957. Epub 2017 Sep 28.


Biallelic mismatch repair deficiency (bMMRD) in tumours is frequently associated with somatic mutations in the exonuclease domains of DNA polymerases POLE or POLD1, and results in a characteristic mutational profile. In this article, we describe the genetic basis of ultramutated high-grade brain tumours in the context of bMMRD. We performed exome sequencing of two second-cousin patients from a large consanguineous family of Indian origin with early onset of high-grade glioblastoma and astrocytoma. We identified a germline homozygous nonsense variant, p.R802*, in the PMS2 gene. Additionally, by genome sequencing of these tumours, we found extremely high somatic mutation rates (237/Mb and 123/Mb), as well as somatic mutations in the proofreading domain of POLE polymerase (p.P436H and p.L424V), which replicates the leading DNA strand. Most interestingly, we found, in both cancers, that the vast majority of mutations were consistent with the signature of POLE exo- , i.e. an abundance of C>A and C>T mutations, particularly in special contexts, on the leading strand. We showed that the fraction of mutations under positive selection among mutations in tumour suppressor genes is more than two-fold lower in ultramutated tumours than in other glioblastomas. Genetic analyses enabled the diagnosis of the two consanguineous childhood brain tumours as being due to a combination of PMS2 germline and POLE somatic variants, and confirmed them as bMMRD/POLE exo- disorders. Copyright © 2017 Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: DNA polymerase ϵ; biallelic mismatch repair deficiency; brain tumours; exonuclease activity; familial gliomas; ultrahypermutable phenotype.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Mismatch Repair / genetics*
  • DNA Polymerase II / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Germ-Line Mutation / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mismatch Repair Endonuclease PMS2 / genetics*
  • Poly-ADP-Ribose Binding Proteins


  • Poly-ADP-Ribose Binding Proteins
  • DNA
  • DNA Polymerase II
  • POLE protein, human
  • PMS2 protein, human
  • Mismatch Repair Endonuclease PMS2