Simple repetitive DNA sequences are unstable in human colorectal cancers and a variety of other cancers. Mutations in the DNA mismatch repair genes MSH2, MLH1, and PMS1 result in elevated rates of spontaneous mutation and cause a marked increase in the instability of simple repeats. Compared with the wild type, a null mutation in the yeast RTH1 gene, which encodes a 5′ to 3′ exonuclease, was shown to increase the rate of instability of simple repetitive DNA by as much as 280 times and to increase the spontaneous mutation rate by 30 times. Epistasis analyses were consistent with the hypothesis that this RTH1-encoded nuclease has a role in the MSH2-MLH1-PMS1 mismatch repair pathway.
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