Human embryonic stem cells show low-grade microsatellite instability

Ha Nguyen Thi, Christina Markouli, Mieke Geens, Lise Barbé, Karen Sermon, Claudia Spits

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


It is well known that human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) frequently acquire recurrent chromosomal abnormalities, very reminiscent of those found in cancerous cells. Given the parallels between cancer and stem cell biology, we set out to investigate the occurrence of a common form of genome instability in tumors, namely microsatellite instability (MSI), in hESCs. MSI is caused by a deficiency in mismatch repair (MMR) genes, which leads to the accumulation of mutations during DNA replication. In this study, we analyzed up to 122 microsatellites in a total of 10 hESC lines, for 1-11 different passages, ranging frompassage7to passage 334. In two lines, this revealed that two microsatellites had altered allelic patterns. Small-pool PCR for several microsatellites and testing of the Bethesda panel microsatellites (commonly used in cancer studies) revealed that, whilst MSI is common in all tested lines, it occurs at a very low and variable frequency, ranging from 1 to 20% of the total number of alleles. In cancerous cells, MSI leads to multiple large shifts in allele sizes within the majority of the cells, while hESCs show small changes in a minority of the cells. Since these genetic alterations do not consistently takeover the culture, we assume that they are not concurrent with a selective advantage as it is in tumors. Finally, the MMR genes showed a very variable gene expression that could not be correlated with the variable (low) levels of MSI in the different hESC lines.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)981-989
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Human Reproduction
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2014


  • Human embryonic stem cells
  • Microsatellite instability
  • Mismatch repair system

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Human embryonic stem cells show low-grade microsatellite instability'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this