Background In 30–50% of patients with colorectal adenomatous polyposis, no germline mutation in the known genes APC, causing familial adenomatous polyposis, MUTYH, causing MUTYH-associated polyposis, or POLE or POLD1, causing polymerase-proofreading-associated polyposis can be identified, although a hereditary aetiology is likely. This study aimed to explore the impact of APC mutational mosaicism in unexplained polyposis.
Methods To comprehensively screen for somatic low-level APC mosaicism, high-coverage next-generation sequencing of the APC gene was performed using DNA from leucocytes and a total of 53 colorectal tumours from 20 unrelated patients with unexplained sporadic adenomatous polyposis. APC mosaicism was assumed if the same loss-of-function APC mutation was present in ≥2 anatomically separated colorectal adenomas/carcinomas per patient. All mutations were validated using diverse methods.
Results In 25% (5/20) of patients, somatic mosaicism of a pathogenic APC mutation was identified as underlying cause of the disease. In 2/5 cases, the mosaic level in leucocyte DNA was slightly below the sensitivity threshold of Sanger sequencing; while in 3/5 cases, the allelic fraction was either very low (0.1–1%) or no mutations were detectable. The majority of mosaic mutations were located outside the somatic mutation cluster region of the gene.
Conclusions The present data indicate a high prevalence of pathogenic mosaic APC mutations below the detection thresholds of routine diagnostics in adenomatous polyposis, even if high-coverage sequencing of leucocyte DNA alone is taken into account. This has important implications for both routine work-up and strategies to identify new causative genes in this patient group.
- Cancer: colon
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