Heterozygous APC germline mutations impart predisposition to colorectal cancer

Livia Preisler, Aline Habib, Guy Shapira, Liron Kuznitsov-Yanovsky, Yoav Mayshar, Ilana Carmel-Gross, Mira Malcov, Foad Azem, Noam Shomron, Revital Kariv, Dov Hershkovitz, Dalit Ben-Yosef*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is an inherited syndrome caused by a heterozygous adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) germline mutation, associated with a profound lifetime risk for colorectal cancer. While it is well accepted that tumorigenic transformation is initiated following acquisition of a second mutation and loss of function of the APC gene, the role of heterozygous APC mutation in this process is yet to be discovered. This work aimed to explore whether a heterozygous APC mutation induces molecular defects underlying tumorigenic transformation and how different APC germline mutations predict disease severity. Three FAP-human embryonic stem cell lines (FAP1/2/3-hESC lines) carrying germline mutations at different locations of the APC gene, and two control hESC lines free of the APC mutation, were differentiated into colon organoids and analyzed by immunohistochemistry and RNA sequencing. In addition, data regarding the genotype and clinical phenotype of the embryo donor parents were collected from medical records. FAP-hESCs carrying a complete loss-of-function of a single APC allele (FAP3) generated complex and molecularly mature colon organoids, which were similar to controls. In contrast, FAP-hESCs carrying APC truncation mutations (FAP1 and FAP2) generated only few cyst-like structures and cell aggregates of various shape, occasionally with luminal parts, which aligned with their failure to upregulate critical differentiation genes early in the process, as shown by RNA sequencing. Abnormal disease phenotype was shown also in non-pathological colon of FAP patients by the randomly distribution of proliferating cells throughout the crypts, compared to their focused localization in the lower part of the crypt in healthy/non-FAP patients. Genotype/phenotype analysis revealed correlations between the colon organoid maturation potential and FAP severity in the carrier parents. In conclusion, this study suggest that a single truncated APC allele is sufficient to initiate early molecular tumorigenic activity. In addition, the results hint that patient-specific hESC-derived colon organoids can probably predict disease severity among FAP patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5113
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


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