NTHL1 and MUTYH polyposis syndromes: two sides of the same coin?

It is well-established now that germline genomic aberrations can underlie high-penetrant familial polyposis and colorectal cancer syndromes, but a genetic cause has not yet been found for the major proportion of patients with polyposis. Since next generation sequencing has become widely accessible, several novel, but rare, high-penetrant risk factors for adenomatous polyposis have been identified, all operating in pathways responsible for genomic maintenance and DNA repair. One of these is the base excision repair (BER) pathway. In addition to the well-established role of the DNA glycosylase gene MUTYH, in which biallelic mutations predispose to MUTYH-associated polyposis, a second DNA glycosylase gene, NTHL1, has recently been associated with adenomatous polyposis and a high colorectal cancer risk. Both recessive polyposis syndromes show increased risks for several other cancer types as well, but the spectrum of benign and malignant tumours in individuals with biallelic NTHL1 mutations was shown to be broader, hence the name NTHL1-associated tumour syndrome. Colorectal tumours encountered in patients with these syndromes show unique, clearly distinct mutational signatures that may facilitate the identification of these syndromes. Based on the prevalence of pathogenic MUTYH and NTHL1 variants in the normal population, we estimate that the frequency of the novel NTHL1-associated tumour syndrome is five times lower than that of MUTYH-associated polyposis.

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