[Show abstract][Hide abstract]ABSTRACT: Some colorectal tumors with wild-type adenomatous polyposis coli gene have activating mutations in beta-catenin (encoded by CTNNB1) that result in decreased phosphorylation by GSK-3beta and increased signaling through the Tcf/Lef transcription factors. To investigate the relationship between CTNNB1 mutations and underlying pathways of genomic instability, we examined 80 colorectal cancers stratified by the presence or absence of microsatellite instability (MSI). CTNNB1 mutations were identified in 13 (25%) of 53 cancers with high frequency MSI (MSI-H), including 12 point mutations at exon 3 phosphorylation sites (codons 41 and 45) and one deletion of the entire exon 3 degradation box. No CTNNB1 mutations were identified in 27 microsatellite stable or low frequency MSI (MSI-L) colorectal cancers (P < 0.01). In contrast, CTNNB1 mutations were identified in 3 of 9 (33%) MSI-H and 10 of 20 (50%) MSS/MSI-L endometrial carcinomas, suggesting a more generalized involvement in these tumors. Only six (46%) of the endometrial carcinoma CTNNB1 mutations occurred at residues directly phosphorylated by GSK-3beta, and only one of these was at either codon 41 or 45. All point mutations in MSI-H cancers were transitions, whereas 64% of those in MSS/MSI-L cancers were transversions (P < 0.01). The differences in the mutation profiles suggest that there may be molecular fingerprints of CTNNB1 mutations, determined by biological factors related to both tumor type and underlying pathways of genomic instability.