DNA mismatch repair (MMR) function is critical for correcting errors coincident with polymerase-driven DNA replication, and its proteins are frequent targets for inactivation (germline or somatic), generating a hypermutable tumor that drives cancer progression. The biomarker for defective DNA MMR is microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H), observed in ~15% of colorectal cancers, and defined by mono- and dinucleotide microsatellite frameshift mutations. MSI-H is highly correlated with loss of MMR protein expression, is commonly diploid, is often located in the right side of the colon, prognosticates good patient outcome, and predicts poor efficacy with 5-fluorouracil treatment. Elevated microsatellite alterations at selected tetranucleotide repeats (EMAST) is another form of MSI at tetranucleotide repeats that has been observed in multiple cancers, but its etiology and clinical relevance to patient care has only been recently illuminated. Specifically, EMAST is an acquired somatic defect observed in up to 60% of colorectal cancers and caused by unique dysfunction of the DNA MMR protein MSH3 (and its DNA MMR complex MutSβ, a heterodimer of MSH2-MSH3), and in particular a loss-of-function phenotype due to a reversible shift from its normal nuclear location into the cytosol in response to oxidative stress and the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6. Tumor hypoxia may also be a contributor. Patients with EMAST colorectal cancers show diminished prognosis compared to patients without the presence of EMAST in their cancer. In addition to defective DNA MMR recognized by tetranucleotide (and di- and tri-nucleotide) frameshifts, loss of MSH3 also contributes to homologous recombination-mediated repair of DNA double stranded breaks, indicating the MSH3 dysfunction is a complex defect for cancer cells that generates not only EMAST but also may contribute to chromosomal instability and aneuploidy. Areas for future investigation for this most common DNA MMR defect among colorectal cancers include relationships between EMAST and chemotherapy response, patient outcome with aneuploid changes in colorectal cancers, target gene mutation analysis, and mechanisms related to inflammation-induced compartmentalization and inactivation for MSH3.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited