A sensitive and scalable microsatellite instability assay to diagnose constitutional mismatch repair deficiency by sequencing of peripheral blood leukocytes

Hum Mutat. 2019 May;40(5):649-655. doi: 10.1002/humu.23721. Epub 2019 Mar 6.


Constitutional mismatch repair deficiency (CMMRD) is caused by germline pathogenic variants in both alleles of a mismatch repair gene. Patients have an exceptionally high risk of numerous pediatric malignancies and benefit from surveillance and adjusted treatment. The diversity of its manifestation, and ambiguous genotyping results, particularly from PMS2, can complicate diagnosis and preclude timely patient management. Assessment of low-level microsatellite instability in nonneoplastic tissues can detect CMMRD, but current techniques are laborious or of limited sensitivity. Here, we present a simple, scalable CMMRD diagnostic assay. It uses sequencing and molecular barcodes to detect low-frequency microsatellite variants in peripheral blood leukocytes and classifies samples using variant frequencies. We tested 30 samples from 26 genetically-confirmed CMMRD patients, and samples from 94 controls and 40 Lynch syndrome patients. All samples were correctly classified, except one from a CMMRD patient recovering from aplasia. However, additional samples from this same patient tested positive for CMMRD. The assay also confirmed CMMRD in six suspected patients. The assay is suitable for both rapid CMMRD diagnosis within clinical decision windows and scalable screening of at-risk populations. Its deployment will improve patient care, and better define the prevalence and phenotype of this likely underreported cancer syndrome.

Keywords: Constitutional mismatch repair deficiency; genetic diagnostics; microsatellite instability; next-generation sequencing; single molecule molecular inversion probes; variant classification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Brain Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • DNA Mismatch Repair*
  • Genetic Association Studies* / methods
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Germ-Line Mutation
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Microsatellite Instability*
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Neoplastic Syndromes, Hereditary / diagnosis*
  • Neoplastic Syndromes, Hereditary / genetics*

Supplementary concepts

  • Turcot syndrome