Using the in vitro MMR assay to recognize reduced MMR gene expression levels

Assessing how reduced expression levels of the mismatch repair genes MLH1, MSH2 and MSH6 affect repair efficiency

Minttu Kansikas, Mariann Kasela, Jukka Kantelinen and Minna Nyström

Lynch syndrome (LS), the most common familial colon cancer, is associated with mismatch repair (MMR) malfunction. As mutation carriers inherit one normal and one defected MMR gene allele, cancer risk can be considered as limited amount of normal MMR gene product. How reductions in different MMR gene expressions affect MMR capability is, however, not known. The in vitro MMR assay is a method for the pathogenicity assessment of MMR gene variants causing functional or expressional defects and thus also suitable to evaluate the effects of reduced expression of normal mRNA. Here, the assay was applied to quantify repair efficiencies of human cells retaining varying expression levels (25%/50%/75%) of the main LS susceptibility genes MLH1,MSH2 or MSH6. Compared to the shRNA knockdown control, already a 50% reduction in mRNA levels could be detected as decreased MMR function although without statistical significance in MLH1. In MSH2 and MLH1, total loss of MMR was achieved with 25% expression, while in MSH6 and MSH2 the repair capability decreased significantly already with 75% expression. Our results provide a preliminary indication of relative expressions required for wild-type function and suggest that the in vitro MMR assay could be used to recognize expression levels indicative of LS.

Human Mutation, 2014.