Three molecular pathways model colorectal carcinogenesis in Lynch syndrome

Int J Cancer. 2018 Jul 1;143(1):139-150. doi: 10.1002/ijc.31300. Epub 2018 Feb 23.


Lynch syndrome is caused by germline mutations of DNA mismatch repair (MMR) genes. MMR deficiency has long been regarded as a secondary event in the pathogenesis of Lynch syndrome colorectal cancers. Recently, this concept has been challenged by the discovery of MMR-deficient crypt foci in the normal mucosa. We aimed to reconstruct colorectal carcinogenesis in Lynch syndrome by collecting molecular and histology evidence from Lynch syndrome adenomas and carcinomas. We determined the frequency of MMR deficiency in adenomas from Lynch syndrome mutation carriers by immunohistochemistry and by systematic literature analysis. To trace back the pathways of pathogenesis, histological growth patterns and mutational signatures were analyzed in Lynch syndrome colorectal cancers. Literature and immunohistochemistry analysis demonstrated MMR deficiency in 491 (76.7%) out of 640 adenomas (95% CI: 73.3% to 79.8%) from Lynch syndrome mutation carriers. Histologically normal MMR-deficient crypts were found directly adjacent to dysplastic adenoma tissue, proving their role as tumor precursors in Lynch syndrome. Accordingly, mutation signature analysis in Lynch colorectal cancers revealed that KRAS and APC mutations commonly occur after the onset of MMR deficiency. Tumors lacking evidence of polypous growth frequently presented with CTNNB1 and TP53 mutations. Our findings demonstrate that Lynch syndrome colorectal cancers can develop through three pathways, with MMR deficiency commonly representing an early and possibly initiating event. This underlines that targeting MMR-deficient cells by chemoprevention or vaccines against MMR deficiency-induced frameshift peptide neoantigens holds promise for tumor prevention in Lynch syndrome.

Keywords: Lynch syndrome; colorectal cancer; microsatellite instability; mismatch repair deficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / genetics*
  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli Protein / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms, Hereditary Nonpolyposis / genetics*
  • DNA Mismatch Repair
  • DNA Repair Enzymes / genetics*
  • Female
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • Mutation*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / genetics
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • beta Catenin / genetics


  • APC protein, human
  • Adenomatous Polyposis Coli Protein
  • CTNNB1 protein, human
  • KRAS protein, human
  • TP53 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • beta Catenin
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • DNA Repair Enzymes