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Cancer Prevention Research
Year: 2010  |  Volume: 3  |  Issue: 11  |  Page No.: 1409 - 1416

An MLH1 Mutation Links BACH1/FANCJ to Colon Cancer, Signaling, and Insight toward Directed Therapy

J Xie, S Guillemette, M Peng, C Gilbert, A Buermeyer and S. B. Cantor    


Defects in MLH1, as with other mismatch repair (MMR) proteins, are the primary cause of hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC). Mutations in MMR genes often disrupt mismatch repair and MMR signaling functions. However, some HNPCC-associated mutations have unknown pathogenicity. Here, we uncover an MLH1 clinical mutation with a leucine (L)-to-histidine (H) amino acid change at position 607 that ablates MLH1 binding to FANCJ. Given that a DNA helicase is not essential for mammalian MMR in vitro, we considered that loss of MLH1 binding to FANCJ could alter MMR signaling. Consistent with this hypothesis, FANCJ-deficient cells exhibit delayed MMR signaling and apoptotic responses that generate resistance to agents that induce O6-methylguanine lesions. Our data indicate that the delay in MMR signaling provides time for the methylguanine methyltransferase (MGMT) enzyme to reverse DNA methylation. In essence, FANCJ deficiency alters the competition between two pathways: MGMT-prosurvival versus MMR-prodeath. This outcome could explain the HNPCC familial cancers that present as microsatellite stable and with intact MMR, such as MLHL607H. Importantly, the link between FANCJ and HNPCC provides insight toward directed therapies because loss of the FANCJ/MLH1 interaction also uniquely sensitizes cells to DNA cross-linking agents. Cancer Prev Res; 3(11); 1409–16. ©2010 AACR.

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