MLH1 methylation screening is effective in identifying epimutation carriers.
ABSTRACT Recently, constitutional MLH1 epimutations have been identified in a subset of Lynch syndrome (LS) cases. The aim of this study was the identification of patients harboring constitutional MLH1 epimutations in a set of 34 patients with a clinical suspicion of LS, MLH1-methylated tumors and non-detected germline mutations in mismatch repair (MMR) genes. MLH1 promoter methylation was analyzed in lymphocyte DNA samples by MS-MLPA (Methylation-specific multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification). Confirmation of MLH1 constitutional methylation was performed by MS-MCA (Methylation-specific melting curve analysis), bisulfite sequencing and pyrosequencing in different biological samples. Allelic expression was determined using heterozygous polymorphisms. Vertical transmission was evaluated by MS-MLPA and haplotype analyses. MS-MLPA analysis detected constitutional MLH1 methylation in 2 of the 34 individuals whose colorectal cancers showed MLH1 methylation (5.9%). These results were confirmed by bisulfite-based methods. Both epimutation carriers had developed metachronous early-onset LS tumors, with no family history of LS-associated cancers in their first-degree relatives. In one of the cases, the identified MLH1 constitutional methylation was monoallelic and results in MLH1 and EPM2AIP1 allele-specific transcriptional silencing. It was present in normal somatic tissues and absent in spermatozoa. The methylated MLH1 allele was maternally transmitted and methylation was reversed in a daughter who inherited the same allele. MLH1 methylation screening in lymphocyte DNA from patients with early-onset MLH1-methylated LS-associated tumors allows the identification of epimutation carriers. The present study adds further evidence to the emerging entity of soma-wide MLH1 epimutation and its heritability.European Journal of Human Genetics advance online publication, 4 July 2012; doi:10.1038/ejhg.2012.136.