Review Article Open Access
Volume 2 | Issue 3 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.33696/cancerimmunol.2.024

Immunological Features with DNA Microsatellite Alterations in Patients with Colorectal Cancer

  • 1Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  • 2Department of Human Genetics and Rogel Cancer Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
+ Affiliations - Affiliations

Corresponding Author

John M. Carethers, jcarethe@umich.edu

Received Date: July 22, 2020

Accepted Date: August 20, 2020


Competent human DNA mismatch repair (MMR) corrects DNA polymerase mistakes made during cell replication to maintain complete DNA fidelity in daughter cells; faulty DNA MMR occurs in the setting of inflammation and neoplasia, creating base substitutions (e.g. point mutations) and frameshift mutations at DNA microsatellite sequences in progeny cells. Frameshift mutations at DNA microsatellite sequences are a detected biomarker termed microsatellite instability (MSI) for human disease, as this marker can prognosticate and determine therapeutic approaches for patients with cancer. There are two types of MSI: MSI-High (MSI-H), defined by frameshifts at mono- and di-nucleotide microsatellite sequences, and elevated microsatellite alterations at selected tetranucleotide repeats or EMAST, defined by frameshifts in di- and tetranucleotide microsatellite sequences but not mononucleotide sequences. Patients with colorectal cancers (CRCs) manifesting MSI-H demonstrate improved survival over patients without an MSI-H tumor, driven by the generation of immunogenic neoantigens caused by novel truncated proteins from genes whose sequences contain coding microsatellites; these patients’ tumors contain hundreds of somatic mutations, and show responsiveness to treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors. Patients with CRCs manifesting EMAST demonstrate poor survival over patients without an EMAST tumor, and may be driven by a more dominant defect in double strand break repair attributed to the MMR protein MSH3 over its frameshift correcting function; these patients’ tumors often have a component of inflammation (and are also termed inflammationassociated microsatellite alterations) and show less somatic mutations and lack coding mononucleotide frameshift mutations that seem to generate the neoantigens seen in the majority of MSI-H tumors. Overall, both types of MSI are biomarkers that can prognosticate patients with CRC, can be tested for simultaneously in marker panels, and informs the approach to specific therapy including immunotherapy for their cancers.


MSI, EMAST, Colorectal cancer, Neoantigens, Mismatch repair, DNA repair, Tumor immunology, Tumor microenvironment, Inflammation

Author Information X