Microsatellite instability (MSI) in human carcinoma DNA is a characteristic phenotype observed in hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer and also in some human sporadic cancers including multiple primary carcinomas. In this study, we analyzed mutations in the hCHK1, E2F4, hMSH3, and hMSH6 genes in MSI+ human cancers arising in colorectum, stomach and endometrium. The E2F4 and hMSH3 genes were mutated in all tumor types. Interestingly, the hMSH6 gene was mutated in colorectal and gastric cancers but not in endometrial cancer; this is similar to the TGFbetaRII gene. It is notable that the mutation status of the secondary mutators, hMSH3 and hMSH6, did not influence slippage-related frameshift mutations in genes harboring simple tandem-repeats, which suggests that the MSI phenotype may be affected mainly by abnormalities in the primary mutator genes, not by the secondary mutator genes. No mutations were observed in the cell cycle checkpoint gene hCHK1; mutations of this gene are thought to have a limited role, if any, in at least the tumor types analyzed in this study.
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