Abstract: PURPOSE: Functional assays provide important evidence for classifying the disease significance of germline variants in the DNA mismatch repair genes. We sought to develop a cell-based approach for testing the function of variants of uncertain significance (VUS) in the MLH1 gene.METHODS: Using CRISPR gene editing, we knocked-in MLH1 VUS into the endogenous MLH1 loci in human embryonic stem cells. We examined their impact at the RNA and protein level, including their ability to maintain stability of microsatellite sequences and instigate a DNA damage response. We calibrated these assays by testing well-established pathogenic and benign control variants.RESULTS: Five VUS resulted in functionally abnormal protein, 15 VUS resulted in functionally normal protein, and one VUS showed mixed results. Furthermore, we converted the functional outputs into a single odds in favor of pathogenicity score for each VUS.CONCLUSION: Our CRISPR-based functional assay successfully models phenotypes observed in patients in a cellular context. Using this approach, we generated evidence for or against pathogenicity for utilization by variant classification expert panels. Ultimately, this information will assist in proper diagnosis and disease management for suspected Lynch syndrome patients.

Journal Link: 10.1101/2021.12.14.472580 Journal Link: Publisher Website Journal Link: Download PDF Journal Link: Google Scholar