Colorectal cancer (CRC) arising in Lynch syndrome (LS) comprises tumours with constitutional mutations in DNA mismatch repair genes. There is still a lack of whole-genome and transcriptome studies of LS-CRC to address questions about similarities and differences in mutation and gene expression characteristics between LS-CRC and sporadic CRC, about the molecular heterogeneity of LS-CRC, and about specific mechanisms of LS-CRC genesis linked to dysfunctional mismatch repair in LS colonic mucosa and the possible role of immune editing. Here, we provide a first molecular characterization of LS tumours and of matched tumour-distant reference colonic mucosa based on whole-genome DNA-sequencing and RNA-sequencing analyses. Our data support two subgroups of LS-CRCs, G1 and G2, whereby G1 tumoursshow a higher number of somatic mutations, a higher amount of microsatellite slippage, and a different mutation spectrum. The gene expression phenotypes support this difference. Reference mucosa of G1 shows a strong immune response associated with the expression of HLA and immune checkpoint genes and the invasion of CD4+ T cells. Such an immune response is not observed in LS tumours, G2 reference and normal (non-Lynch) mucosa, and sporadic CRC. We hypothesize that G1 tumours are edited for escape from a highly immunogenic microenvironment via loss of HLA presentation and T-cell exhaustion. In contrast, G2 tumours seem to develop in a less immunogenic microenvironment where tumour-promoting inflammation parallels tumourigenesis. Larger studies on non-neoplastic mucosa tissue of mutation carriers are required to better understand the early phases of emerging tumours.
Interdisciplinary Centre for Bioinformatics, Leipzig University, Leipzig, Germany