Date Published:2014 Nov 15
Microsatellites are simple tandem repeats that are present at millions of loci in the human genome. Microsatellite instability (MSI) refers to DNA slippage events on microsatellites that occur frequently in cancer genomes when there is a defect in the DNA-mismatch repair system. These somatic mutations can result in inactivation of tumor-suppressor genes or disrupt other noncoding regulatory sequences, thereby playing a role in carcinogenesis. Here, we will discuss the ways in which high-throughput sequencing data can facilitate genome- or exome-wide discovery and more detailed investigation of MSI events in microsatellite-unstable cancer genomes. We will address the methodologic aspects of this approach and highlight insights from recent analyses of colorectal and endometrial cancer genomes from The Cancer Genome Atlas project. These include identification of novel MSI targets within and across tumor types and the relationship between the likelihood of MSI events to chromatin structure. Given the increasing popularity of exome and genome sequencing of cancer genomes, a comprehensive characterization of MSI may serve as a valuable marker of cancer evolution and aid in a search for therapeutic targets.