Genomic Instability Promoted by Overexpression of Mismatch Repair Factors in Yeast: A Model for Understanding Cancer Progression

Genetics. 2018 Jun;209(2):439-456. doi: 10.1534/genetics.118.300923. Epub 2018 Apr 13.


Mismatch repair (MMR) proteins act in spellchecker roles to excise misincorporation errors that occur during DNA replication. Curiously, large-scale analyses of a variety of cancers showed that increased expression of MMR proteins often correlated with tumor aggressiveness, metastasis, and early recurrence. To better understand these observations, we used The Cancer Genome Atlas and Gene Expression across Normal and Tumor tissue databases to analyze MMR protein expression in cancers. We found that the MMR genes MSH2 and MSH6 are overexpressed more frequently than MSH3, and that MSH2 and MSH6 are often cooverexpressed as a result of copy number amplifications of these genes. These observations encouraged us to test the effects of upregulating MMR protein levels in baker's yeast, where we can sensitively monitor genome instability phenotypes associated with cancer initiation and progression. Msh6 overexpression (two- to fourfold) almost completely disrupted mechanisms that prevent recombination between divergent DNA sequences by interacting with the DNA polymerase processivity clamp PCNA and by sequestering the Sgs1 helicase. Importantly, cooverexpression of Msh2 and Msh6 (∼eightfold) conferred, in a PCNA interaction-dependent manner, several genome instability phenotypes including increased mutation rate, increased sensitivity to the DNA replication inhibitor HU and the DNA-damaging agents MMS and 4-nitroquinoline N-oxide, and elevated loss-of-heterozygosity. Msh2 and Msh6 cooverexpression also altered the cell cycle distribution of exponentially growing cells, resulting in an increased fraction of unbudded cells, consistent with a larger percentage of cells in G1. These novel observations suggested that overexpression of MSH factors affected the integrity of the DNA replication fork, causing genome instability phenotypes that could be important for promoting cancer progression.

Keywords: DNA mismatch repair; Msh2-Msh6 and Msh6 overexpression; PCNA; Sgs1; heteroduplex rejection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Cycle*
  • DNA Mismatch Repair*
  • DNA Replication
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Genomic Instability*
  • Humans
  • MutS Homolog 2 Protein / genetics*
  • MutS Homolog 2 Protein / metabolism
  • MutS Homolog 3 Protein / genetics
  • MutS Homolog 3 Protein / metabolism
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • RecQ Helicases / genetics
  • RecQ Helicases / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / genetics
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • MSH3 protein, S cerevisiae
  • MSH6 protein, S cerevisiae
  • MutS Homolog 3 Protein
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • SGS1 protein, S cerevisiae
  • MSH2 protein, S cerevisiae
  • MutS Homolog 2 Protein
  • RecQ Helicases