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Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) is a clinical syndrome characterised by an inherited predisposition to early onset colorectal and uterine cancers and an increased incidence of other cancers. It is caused by germline defects in the human mismatch repair genes. Defects in two of the known mismatch repair genes (namely hMSH2 and hMLH1) account for over 90% of mutations found in HNPCC families. In this study we have identified 14 families that fulfilled the clinical criteria for HNPCC and screened the hMSH2 and hMLH1 genes for germline mutations using single-strand conformational polymorphism (SSCP) analysis and DNA sequencing. Seven mutations were identified. Of these, there were five frameshifts, one missense mutation and a further novel mutation that involved separate transition and transversion changes in successive amino acid residues. Three of the mutations were in hMSH2 and four in hMLH1. The identification of germ-line mutations in an HNPCC family enables targeted surveillance and the possibility of early curative intervention. SSCP is a simple and effective method for identifying most mutations in the human mismatch repair genes using DNA from fresh, frozen or archival material.

Original publication




Journal article


Hum Genet

Publication Date





219 - 224


Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing, Carrier Proteins, Colorectal Neoplasms, Hereditary Nonpolyposis, DNA Mutational Analysis, DNA-Binding Proteins, Germ-Line Mutation, Humans, MutL Protein Homolog 1, MutS Homolog 2 Protein, Neoplasm Proteins, Nuclear Proteins, Polymorphism, Single-Stranded Conformational, Proto-Oncogene Proteins