Aiming to identify rare high-penetrance mutations in new genes for the underlying predisposition in familial colorectal cancer (CRC), we performed whole-exome sequencing in 24 familial CRCs. Mutations in genes that regulate DNA repair (RMI1, PALB2, FANCI) were identified that were related to the Fanconi anemia DNA repair pathway. In one pedigree, we found a nonsense mutation in CHEK2. CHEK2 played an essential role in cell cycle and DNA damage repair. Somatic mutation analysis in CHEK2 variant carriers showed mutations in TP53, APC, and FBXW7. Loss of heterozygosity was found in carcinoma of CHEK2 variant carrier, and IHC showed loss of Chk2 expression in cancer tissue. We identified a second variant in CHEK2 in 126 sporadic CRCs. A KO cellular model for CHEK2 (CHEK2KO) was generated by CRISPR/Cas9. Functional experiments demonstrated that CHEK2KO cells showed defective cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, as well as reduced p53 phosphorylation, upon DNA damage. We associated germline mutations in genes that regulate the DNA repair pathway with the development of CRC. We identified CHEK2 as a regulator of DNA damage response and perhaps as a gene involved in CRC germline predisposition. These findings link CRC predisposition to the DNA repair pathway, supporting the connection between genome integrity and cancer risk.


Pingping Xu, Danfeng Sun, Yaqi Gao, Yi Jiang, Ming Zhong, Gang Zhao, Jinxian Chen, Zheng Wang, Qiang Liu, Jie Hong, Haoyan Chen, Ying-Xuan Chen, Jing-Yuan Fang


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