Subsets of microsatellite-unstable colorectal cancers exhibit discordance between the CpG island methylator phenotype and MLH1 methylation status

Jung H. Kim, Ye Y. Rhee, Jeong M. Bae, Hyeong J. Kwon, Nam Y. Cho, Mi J. Kim, Gyeong H. Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)


Although the presence of MLH1 methylation in microsatellite-unstable colorectal cancer generally indicates involvement of the CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP) in the development of the tumor, these two conditions do not always correlate. A minority of microsatellite-unstable colorectal cancers exhibit discordance between CIMP and MLH1 methylation statuses. However, the clinicopathological features of such microsatellite-unstable colorectal cancers with discrepant MLH1 methylation and CIMP statuses remain poorly studied. Microsatellite-unstable colorectal cancers (n=220) were analyzed for CIMP and MLH1 methylation statuses using the MethyLight assay. Based on the combinatorial CIMP and MLH1 methylation statuses, the microsatellite-unstable colorectal cancers were grouped into four subtypes (CIMP-high (CIMP-H) MLH1 methylation-positive (MLH1m+), CIMP-H MLH1 methylation-negative, CIMP-low/0 (CIMP-L/0) MLH1m+, and CIMP-L/0 MLH1 methylation-negative), which were compared in terms of their associations with clinicopathological and molecular features. The CIMP-L/0 MLH1 methylation-negative and CIMP-H MLH1m+ subtypes were predominant, comprising 63.6 and 24.1% of total microsatellite-unstable colorectal cancers, respectively. The discordant subtypes, CIMP-H MLH1 methylation-negative and CIMP-L/0 MLH1m+, were found in 5 and 7% of microsatellite-unstable colorectal cancers, respectively. The CIMP-H MLH1 methylation-negative subtype exhibited elevated incidence rates in male patients and was associated with larger tumor size, more frequent loss of MSH2 expression, increased frequency of KRAS mutation, and advanced cancer stage. The CIMP-L/0 MLH1m+ subtype was associated with onset at an earlier age, a predominance of MLH1 loss, and earlier cancer stage. None of the CIMP-L/0 MLH1m+ subtype patients succumbed to death during the follow-up. Our findings suggest that the discordant subtypes of colorectal cancers exhibit distinct clinicopathological and molecular features, although the proportion of discordant subtypes is low. The microsatellite-unstable colorectal cancers of the same CIMP status tended to exhibit different clinicopathological features depending on MLH1 methylation status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1013-1022
Number of pages10
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Jul 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine

Cite this