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1.  Phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) pseudogene expression in endometrial cancer: a conserved regulatory mechanism important in tumorigenesis? 
Gynecologic oncology  2011;124(2):340-346.
Objectives
The PTEN pseudogene, PTENP1, was recently shown to play a role in cell proliferation in a prostate cancer model. In the present study, we sought to determine whether PTENP1 is expressed in endometrial cancer (EMCA) cell lines and primary tumors along with the microRNAs (miRNAs) that are predicted to regulate PTEN and PTENP1 transcript levels.
Methods
RNA was prepared from six EMCA cell lines, three normal endometrial samples, and 61 primary tumors. TaqMan® RT-PCR was used to quantitate PTEN expression in all specimens and PTENP1 expression in cell lines, and normal endometrial (NE) samples. PTENP1 expression was evaluated using conventional RT-PCR in primary tumors. MicroRNA profiling was undertaken using NanoString™ technology in AN3CA and KLE cell lines. The relationship between PTEN transcript levels, PTENP1 expression, and PTEN mutation status were investigated.
Results
All NE samples, cell lines, and primary tumors expressed PTEN. PTENP1 transcript was expressed in NE samples, cell lines, and 34 of 61 (56%) primary tumors. The median relative PTEN level was 2.9 arbitrary expression units in PTENP1-positive tumors and 2.3 in PTENP1-negative tumors (p = 0.09). PTEN levels in wild-type and haploinsufficient tumors were variable compared to PTEN-null tumors (p = 0.015). Four microRNAs predicted to bind to PTEN/PTENP1 ranked in the top 20 most abundant microRNA subtypes in the AN3CA and KLE cell lines.
Conclusions
PTENP1 is expressed in NE and EMCA cell lines, as are PTEN/PTENP1 targeting inhibitory miRNAs (cell lines). Further studies are needed to evaluate the impact of PTEN/PTENP1/miRNA interactions on tumorigenesis regulation in EMCA.
doi:10.1016/j.ygyno.2011.10.011
PMCID: PMC3954782  PMID: 22005521
Endometrial cancer; microRNAs; tumorigenesis; PTENP1; PTEN
2.  Germline and somatic DNA methylation and epigenetic regulation of KILLIN in renal cell carcinoma 
Genes, chromosomes & cancer  2011;50(8):654-661.
We recently identified germline methylation of KILLIN, a novel p53-regulated tumor suppressor proximal to PTEN, in >1/3 Cowden or Cowden syndrome-like (CS/CSL) individuals who are PTEN mutation negative. Individuals with germline KILLIN methylation had increased risks of renal cell carcinoma (RCC) over those with PTEN mutations. Therefore, we tested the hypothesis that KILLIN may be a RCC susceptibility gene, silenced by germline methylation. We found germline hypermethylation by combined bisulfite restriction analysis (COBRA) in at least one of the four CpG-rich regions in 23/41 (56%) RCC patients compared to 0/50 controls (P<0.0001). Of the 23, 11 (48%) demonstrated methylation in the -598bp to -890bp region in respect to the KILLIN transcription start site. Furthermore, 19 of 20 advanced RCC showed somatic hypermethylation upstream of KILLIN, with the majority hypermethylated at more than one CpG island (13/19 vs 3/23 with germline methylation, p<0.0001). qRT-PCR revealed that methylation significantly downregulates KILLIN expression (P=0.05), and demethylation treatment by 5-aza-2’deoxycytidine significantly increased KILLIN expression in all RCC cell lines while only increasing PTEN expression in one line. Furthermore, targeted in vitro methylation revealed a significant decrease in KILLIN promoter activity only. These data reveal differential epigenetic regulation by DNA promoter methylation of this bidirectional promoter. In summary, we have identified KILLIN as a potential novel cancer predisposition gene for nonsyndromic ccRCC, and the epigenetic mechanism of KILLIN inactivation in both the germline and somatic setting suggests the potential for treatment with demethylating agents.
doi:10.1002/gcc.20887
PMCID: PMC3110575  PMID: 21584899
Heritable kidney neoplasia; PTEN; KILLIN; DNA methylation
3.  A Genome-Wide Screen for Promoter Methylation in Lung Cancer Identifies Novel Methylation Markers for Multiple Malignancies  
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e486.
Background
Promoter hypermethylation coupled with loss of heterozygosity at the same locus results in loss of gene function in many tumor cells. The “rules” governing which genes are methylated during the pathogenesis of individual cancers, how specific methylation profiles are initially established, or what determines tumor type-specific methylation are unknown. However, DNA methylation markers that are highly specific and sensitive for common tumors would be useful for the early detection of cancer, and those required for the malignant phenotype would identify pathways important as therapeutic targets.
Methods and Findings
In an effort to identify new cancer-specific methylation markers, we employed a high-throughput global expression profiling approach in lung cancer cells. We identified 132 genes that have 5′ CpG islands, are induced from undetectable levels by 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine in multiple non-small cell lung cancer cell lines, and are expressed in immortalized human bronchial epithelial cells. As expected, these genes were also expressed in normal lung, but often not in companion primary lung cancers. Methylation analysis of a subset (45/132) of these promoter regions in primary lung cancer (n = 20) and adjacent nonmalignant tissue (n = 20) showed that 31 genes had acquired methylation in the tumors, but did not show methylation in normal lung or peripheral blood cells. We studied the eight most frequently and specifically methylated genes from our lung cancer dataset in breast cancer (n = 37), colon cancer (n = 24), and prostate cancer (n = 24) along with counterpart nonmalignant tissues. We found that seven loci were frequently methylated in both breast and lung cancers, with four showing extensive methylation in all four epithelial tumors.
Conclusions
By using a systematic biological screen we identified multiple genes that are methylated with high penetrance in primary lung, breast, colon, and prostate cancers. The cross-tumor methylation pattern we observed for these novel markers suggests that we have identified a partial promoter hypermethylation signature for these common malignancies. These data suggest that while tumors in different tissues vary substantially with respect to gene expression, there may be commonalities in their promoter methylation profiles that represent targets for early detection screening or therapeutic intervention.
John Minna and colleagues report that a group of genes are commonly methylated in primary lung, breast, colon, and prostate cancer.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Tumors or cancers contain cells that have lost many of the control mechanisms that normally regulate their behavior. Unlike normal cells, which only divide to repair damaged tissues, cancer cells divide uncontrollably. They also gain the ability to move round the body and start metastases in secondary locations. These changes in behavior result from alterations in their genetic material. For example, mutations (permanent changes in the sequence of nucleotides in the cell's DNA) in genes known as oncogenes stimulate cells to divide constantly. Mutations in another group of genes—tumor suppressor genes—disable their ability to restrain cell growth. Key tumor suppressor genes are often completely lost in cancer cells. But not all the genetic changes in cancer cells are mutations. Some are “epigenetic” changes—chemical modifications of genes that affect the amount of protein made from them. In cancer cells, methyl groups are often added to CG-rich regions—this is called hypermethylation. These “CpG islands” lie near gene promoters—sequences that control the transcription of DNA into RNA, the template for protein production—and their methylation switches off the promoter. Methylation of the promoter of one copy of a tumor suppressor gene, which often coincides with the loss of the other copy of the gene, is thought to be involved in cancer development.
Why Was This Study Done?
The rules that govern which genes are hypermethylated during the development of different cancer types are not known, but it would be useful to identify any DNA methylation events that occur regularly in common cancers for two reasons. First, specific DNA methylation markers might be useful for the early detection of cancer. Second, identifying these epigenetic changes might reveal cellular pathways that are changed during cancer development and so identify new therapeutic targets. In this study, the researchers have used a systematic biological screen to identify genes that are methylated in many lung, breast, colon, and prostate cancers—all cancers that form in “epithelial” tissues.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used microarray expression profiling to examine gene expression patterns in several lung cancer and normal lung cell lines. In this technique, labeled RNA molecules isolated from cells are applied to a “chip” carrying an array of gene fragments. Here, they stick to the fragment that represents the gene from which they were made, which allows the genes that the cells express to be catalogued. By comparing the expression profiles of lung cancer cells and normal lung cells before and after treatment with a chemical that inhibits DNA methylation, the researchers identified genes that were methylated in the cancer cells—that is, genes that were expressed in normal cells but not in cancer cells unless methylation was inhibited. 132 of these genes contained CpG islands. The researchers examined the promoters of 45 of these genes in lung cancer cells taken straight from patients and found that 31 of the promoters were methylated in tumor tissues but not in adjacent normal tissues. Finally, the researchers looked at promoter methylation of the eight genes most frequently and specifically methylated in the lung cancer samples in breast, colon, and prostate cancers. Seven of the genes were frequently methylated in both lung and breast cancers; four were extensively methylated in all the tumor types.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results identify several new genes that are often methylated in four types of epithelial tumor. The observation that these genes are methylated in multiple independent tumors strongly suggests, but does not prove, that loss of expression of the proteins that they encode helps to convert normal cells into cancer cells. The frequency and diverse patterning of promoter methylation in different tumor types also indicates that methylation is not a random event, although what controls the patterns of methylation is not yet known. The identification of these genes is a step toward building a promoter hypermethylation profile for the early detection of human cancer. Furthermore, although tumors in different tissues vary greatly with respect to gene expression patterns, the similarities seen in this study in promoter methylation profiles might help to identify new therapeutic targets common to several cancer types.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030486.
US National Cancer Institute, information for patients on understanding cancer
CancerQuest, information provided by Emory University about how cancer develops
Cancer Research UK, information for patients on cancer biology
Wikipedia pages on epigenetics (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
The Epigenome Network of Excellence, background information and latest news about epigenetics
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030486
PMCID: PMC1716188  PMID: 17194187
4.  Genome-Wide Profiling of DNA Methylation Reveals a Class of Normally Methylated CpG Island Promoters 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(10):e181.
The role of CpG island methylation in normal development and cell differentiation is of keen interest, but remains poorly understood. We performed comprehensive DNA methylation profiling of promoter regions in normal peripheral blood by methylated CpG island amplification in combination with microarrays. This technique allowed us to simultaneously determine the methylation status of 6,177 genes, 92% of which include dense CpG islands. Among these 5,549 autosomal genes with dense CpG island promoters, we have identified 4.0% genes that are nearly completely methylated in normal blood, providing another exception to the general rule that CpG island methylation in normal tissue is limited to X inactivation and imprinted genes. We examined seven genes in detail, including ANKRD30A, FLJ40201, INSL6, SOHLH2, FTMT, C12orf12, and DPPA5. Dense promoter CpG island methylation and gene silencing were found in normal tissues studied except testis and sperm. In both tissues, bisulfite cloning and sequencing identified cells carrying unmethylated alleles. Interestingly, hypomethylation of several genes was associated with gene activation in cancer. Furthermore, reactivation of silenced genes could be induced after treatment with a DNA demethylating agent or in a cell line lacking DNMT1 and/or DNMT3b. Sequence analysis identified five motifs significantly enriched in this class of genes, suggesting that cis-regulatory elements may facilitate preferential methylation at these promoter CpG islands. We have identified a group of non-X–linked bona fide promoter CpG islands that are densely methylated in normal somatic tissues, escape methylation in germline cells, and for which DNA methylation is a primary mechanism of tissue-specific gene silencing.
Author Summary
About half of all human genes contain a CpG-rich region called a “CpG island” in the 5′ area, often encompassing the promoter and transcription start site of the associated gene. DNA methylation was initially suggested to control tissue-specific gene expression in mammalian cells, but most promoter region CpG islands were found to be unmethylated regardless of tissue specificity of expression. In this study, we discovered an exceptional subset of autosomal genes associated with dense promoter CpG islands that is methylated in normal tissues. We observed tissue-specific gene silencing correlated with hypermethylation in this class of genes, and provided evidence for a direct role of methylation in maintaining the silencing state. Furthermore, we identified five sequence motifs significantly enriched in this class of genes, suggesting the influence of cis-regulatory elements on the establishment and/or stability of DNA methylation. Together, these results provide important new insights into the role of CpG island methylation in normal development and differentiation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0030181
PMCID: PMC2041996  PMID: 17967063
5.  Activation of synovial fibroblasts in rheumatoid arthritis: lack of expression of the tumour suppressor PTEN at sites of invasive growth and destruction 
Arthritis Research  1999;2(1):59-64.
In the present study, we searched for mutant PTEN transcripts in aggressive rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RA-SF) and studied the expression of PTEN in RA. By automated sequencing, no evidence for the presence of mutant PTEN transcripts was found. However, in situ hybridization on RA synovium revealed a distinct expression pattern of PTEN, with negligible staining in the lining layer but abundant expression in the sublining. Normal synovial tissue exhibited homogeneous staining for PTEN. In cultured RA-SF, only 40% expressed PTEN. Co-implantation of RA-SF and normal human cartilage into severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice showed only limited expression of PTEN, with no staining in those cells aggressively invading the cartilage. Although PTEN is not genetically altered in RA, these findings suggest that a lack of PTEN expression may constitute a characteristic feature of activated RA-SF in the lining, and may thereby contribute to the invasive behaviour of RA-SF by maintaining their aggressive phenotype at sites of cartilage destruction.
Aims:
PTEN is a novel tumour suppressor which exhibits tyrosine phosphatase activity as well as homology to the cytoskeletal proteins tensin and auxilin. Mutations of PTEN have been described in several human cancers and associated with their invasiveness and metastatic properties. Although not malignant, rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts (RA-SF) exhibit certain tumour-like features such as attachment to cartilage and invasive growth. In the present study, we analyzed whether mutant transcripts of PTEN were present in RA-SF. In addition, we used in situ hybridization to study the expression of PTEN messenger (m)RNA in tissue samples of RA and normal individuals as well as in cultured RA-SF and in the severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mouse model of RA.
Methods:
Synovial tissue specimens were obtained from seven patients with RA and from two nonarthritic individuals. Total RNA was isolated from synovial fibroblasts and after first strand complementary (c)DNA synthesis, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was performed to amplify a 1063 base pair PTEN fragment that encompassed the coding sequence of PTEN including the phosphatase domain and all mutation sites described so far. The PCR products were subcloned in Escherichia coli, and up to four clones were picked from each plate for automated sequencing. For in situ hybridization, digoxigenin-labelled PTEN-specific RNA probes were generated by in vitro transcription. For control in situ hybridization, a matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2-specific probe was prepared. To investigate the expression of PTEN in the absence of human macrophage or lymphocyte derived factors, we implanted RA-SF from three patients together with normal human cartilage under the renal capsule of SCID mice. After 60 days, mice were sacrificed, the implants removed and embedded into paraffin.
Results:
PCR revealed the presence of the expected 1063 base pair PTEN fragment in all (9/9) cell cultures (Fig. 1). No additional bands that could account for mutant PTEN variants were detected. Sequence analysis revealed 100% homology of all RA-derived PTEN fragments to those from normal SF as well as to the published GenBank sequence (accession number U93051). However, in situ hybridization demonstrated considerable differences in the expression of PTEN mRNA within the lining and the sublining layers of RA synovial membranes. As shown in Figure 2a, no staining was observed within the lining layer which has been demonstrated to mediate degradation of cartilage and bone in RA. In contrast, abundant expression of PTEN mRNA was found in the sublining of all RA synovial tissues (Figs 2a and b). Normal synovial specimens showed homogeneous staining for PTEN within the thin synovial membrane (Fig. 2c). In situ hybridization using the sense probe gave no specific staining (Fig. 2d). We also performed in situ hybridization on four of the seven cultured RA-SF and followed one cell line from the first to the sixth passage. Interestingly, only 40% of cultured RA-SF expressed PTEN mRNA (Fig. 3a), and the proportion of PTEN expressing cells did not change throughout the passages. In contrast, control experiments using a specific RNA probe for MMP-2 revealed mRNA expression by nearly all cultured cells (Fig. 3b). As seen before, implantation of RA-SF into the SCID mice showed considerable cartilage degradation. Interestingly, only negligible PTEN expression was found in those RA-SF aggressively invading the cartilage (Fig. 3c). In situ hybridization for MMP-2 showed abundant staining in these cells (Fig. 3d).
Discussion:
Although this study found no evidence for mutations of PTEN in RA synovium, the observation that PTEN expression is lacking in the lining layer of RA synovium as well as in more than half of cultured RA-SF is of interest. It suggests that loss of PTEN function may not exclusively be caused by genetic alterations, yet at the same time links the low expression of PTEN to a phenotype of cells that have been shown to invade cartilage aggressively.
It has been proposed that the tyrosine phosphatase activity of PTEN is responsible for its tumour suppressor activity by counteracting the actions of protein tyrosine kinases. As some studies have demonstrated an upregulation of tyrosine kinase activity in RA synovial cells, it might be speculated that the lack of PTEN expression in aggressive RA-SF contributes to the imbalance of tyrosine kinases and phosphatases in this disease. However, the extensive amino-terminal homology of the predicted protein to the cytoskeletal proteins tensin and auxilin suggests a complex regulatory function involving cellular adhesion molecules and phosphatase-mediated signalling. The tyrosine phosphatase TEP1 has been shown to be identical to the protein encoded by PTEN, and gene transcription of TEP1 has been demonstrated to be downregulated by transforming growth factor (TGF)-β. Therefore, it could be hypothesized that TGF-β might be responsible for the downregulation of PTEN. However, the expression of TGF-β is not restricted to the lining but found throughout the synovial tissue in RA. Moreover, in our study the percentage of PTEN expressing RA-SF remained stable for six passages in culture, whereas molecules that are cytokine-regulated in vivo frequently change their expression levels when cultured over several passages. Also, cultured RA-SF that were implanted into SCID mice and deeply invaded the cartilage did not show significant expression of PTEN after 60 days. The drop in the percentage of PTEN expressing cells from the original cell cultures to the SCID mouse implants is of interest as this observation goes along with data from previous studies that have shown the prominent expression of activation-related molecules in the SCID mice implants that in vivo are found predominantly in the lining layer. Therefore, our data point to endogenous mechanisms rather than to the influence of exogenous human cytokines or factors in the downregulation of PTEN. Low expression of PTEN may belong to the features that distinguish between the activated phenotype of RA-SF and the sublining, proliferating but nondestructive cells.
PMCID: PMC17804  PMID: 11219390
rheumatoid arthritis; synovial membrane; fibroblasts; PTEN tumour suppressor; severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mouse model; cartilage destruction; in situ hybridization
6.  Methylation of the BIN1 gene promoter CpG island associated with breast and prostate cancer 
Background
Loss of BIN1 tumor suppressor expression is abundant in human cancer and its frequency exceeds that of genetic alterations, suggesting the role of epigenetic regulators (DNA methylation). BIN1 re-expression in the DU145 prostate cancer cell line after 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine treatment was recently reported but no methylation of the BIN1 promoter CpG island was found in DU145.
Methods
Methylation-sensitive arbitrarily-primed PCR was used to detect genomic loci abnormally methylated in breast cancer. BIN1 CpG island fragment was identified among the differentially methylated loci as a result of direct sequencing of the methylation-sensitive arbitrarily-primed PCR product and subsequent BLAST alliance. BIN1 CpG island cancer related methylation in breast and prostate cancers was confirmed by bisulphite sequencing and its methylation frequency was evaluated by methylation sensitive PCR. Loss of heterozygosity analysis of the BIN1 region was performed with two introgenic and one closely adjacent extragenic microsatellite markers.BIN1 expression was evaluated by real-time RT-PCR.
Results
We have identified a 3'-part of BIN1 promoter CpG island among the genomic loci abnormally methylated in breast cancer. The fragment proved to be methylated in 18/99 (18%) and 4/46 (9%) breast and prostate tumors, correspondingly, as well as in MCF7 and T47D breast cancer cell lines, but was never methylated in normal tissues and lymphocytes as well as in DU145 and LNCaP prostate cancer cell lines. The 5'-part of the CpG island revealed no methylation in all samples tested. BIN1 expression losses were detected in MCF7 and T47D cells and were characteristic of primary breast tumors (10/13; 77%), while loss of heterozygosity was a rare event in tissue samples (2/22 informative cases; 9%) and was ruled out for MCF7.
Conclusion
BIN1 promoter CpG island is composed of two parts differing drastically in the methylation patterns in cancer. This appears to be a common feature of cancer related genes and demands further functional significance exploration. Although we have found no evidence of the functional role of such a non-core methylation in BIN1 expression regulation, our data do not altogether rule this possibility out.
doi:10.1186/1477-3163-6-9
PMCID: PMC1876449  PMID: 17477881
7.  Nuclear localisation and epigenetic inactivation of the ras effector/tumour suppressor RASSF2A in multiple human cancers 
Oncogene  2007;27(12):1805-1811.
RASSF2 is a recently identified member of a class of novel tumour suppressor genes, all containing a ras association domain. We previously demonstrated that the A isoform of RASSF2, is frequently inactivated by promoter region hypermethylation in colorectal tumours and adenomas, methylation was tumour specific and that expression in methylated tumour lines could be reactivated by treatment with 5-aza-2dc. RASSF2 resides at 20p13, this region has been demonstrated to be frequently lost in human cancers. In this report we investigated methylation status of the RASSF2A promoter CpG island in a series of breast, ovarian and non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC). RASSF2A was frequently methylated in breast tumour cell lines 65% (13/20) and in primary breast tumours 38% (15/40). RASSF2A gene expression could be switched back on in methylated breast tumour cell lines after treatment with 5-aza-2dC, whilst unmethylated lines showed no difference in level of expression before and after 5-aza-2dC treatment. RASSF2A was also frequently methylated in NSCLC tumours 44% (22/50). Methylation in breast tumours and NSCLC was tumour specific. We did not detect RASSF2A methylation in ovarian tumours (0/17). Furthermore no mutations were found in the coding region of RASSF2A in these ovarian tumours.
RASSF2A suppressed breast tumour cell growth in vitro (through colony formation and soft agar assays) and in vivo. We identified a highly conserved putative bipartite nuclear localisation signal (NLS) between amino acids 151 and 167 in the RASSF2A sequence and demonstrated that endogenous RASSF2A localised to the nucleus. Mutation of the putative nuclear localisation signal abolished the nuclear localisation so RASSF2A became predominantly cytoplasmic. Our data indicates that RASSF2A is frequently methylated in colorectal, breast and NSCLC tumours, furthermore, the methylation is tumour specific. Hence we have identified RASSF2A as a novel methylation marker for multiple malignancies and it has the potential to be developed into a valuable marker for screening several cancers in parallel using promoter hypermethylation profiles.
We also demonstrate that RASSF2 has a functional NLS signal. Furthermore this is the first report demonstrating that RASSF2 suppresses growth of cancer cells in vivo. Hence providing further evidence for its role as a tumour suppressor gene located at 20p13.
doi:10.1038/sj.onc.1210805
PMCID: PMC2948550  PMID: 17891178
8.  Differential DNA methylation profiles in gynecological cancers and correlation with clinico-pathological data 
BMC Cancer  2006;6:212.
Background
Epigenetic gene silencing is one of the major causes of carcinogenesis. Its widespread occurrence in cancer genome could inactivate many cellular pathways including DNA repair, cell cycle control, apoptosis, cell adherence, and detoxification. The abnormal promoter methylation might be a potential molecular marker for cancer management.
Methods
For rapid identification of potential targets for aberrant methylation in gynecological cancers, methylation status of the CpG islands of 34 genes was determined using pooled DNA approach and methylation-specific PCR. Pooled DNA mixture from each cancer type (50 cervical cancers, 50 endometrial cancers and 50 ovarian cancers) was made to form three test samples. The corresponding normal DNA from the patients of each cancer type was also pooled to form the other three control samples. Methylated alleles detected in tumors, but not in normal controls, were indicative of aberrant methylation in tumors. Having identified potential markers, frequencies of methylation were further analyzed in individual samples. Markers identified are used to correlate with clinico-pathological data of tumors using χ2 or Fisher's exact test.
Results
APC and p16 were hypermethylated across the three cancers. MINT31 and PTEN were hypermethylated in cervical and ovarian cancers. Specific methylation was found in cervical cancer (including CDH1, DAPK, MGMT and MINT2), endometrial cancer (CASP8, CDH13, hMLH1 and p73), and ovarian cancer (BRCA1, p14, p15, RIZ1 and TMS1). The frequencies of occurrence of hypermethylation in 4 candidate genes in individual samples of each cancer type (DAPK, MGMT, p16 and PTEN in 127 cervical cancers; APC, CDH13, hMLH1 and p16 in 60 endometrial cancers; and BRCA1, p14, p16 and PTEN in 49 ovarian cancers) were examined for further confirmation. Incidence varied among different genes and in different cancer types ranging from the lowest 8.2% (PTEN in ovarian cancer) to the highest 56.7% (DAPK in cervical cancer). Aberrant methylation for some genes (BRCA1, DAPK, hMLH1, MGMT, p14, p16, and PTEN) was also associated with clinico-pathological data.
Conclusion
Thus, differential methylation profiles occur in the three types of gynecologic cancer. Detection of methylation for critical loci is potentially useful as epigenetic markers in tumor classification. More studies using a much larger sample size are needed to define the potential role of DNA methylation as marker for cancer management.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-212
PMCID: PMC1560388  PMID: 16928264
9.  Frequent Alteration of MLL3 Frameshift Mutations in Microsatellite Deficient Colorectal Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(8):e23320.
Background
MLL3 is a histone 3- lysine 4 methyltransferase with tumor-suppressor properties that belongs to a family of chromatin regulator genes potentially altered in neoplasia. Mutations in MLL3 were found in a whole genome analysis of colorectal cancer but have not been confirmed by a separate study.
Methods and Results
We analyzed mutations of coding region and promoter methylation in MLL3 using 126 cases of colorectal cancer. We found two isoforms of MLL3 and DNA sequencing revealed frameshift and other mutations affecting both isoforms of MLL3 in colorectal cancer cells and 19 of 134 (14%) primary colorectal samples analyzed. Moreover, frameshift mutations were more common in cases with microsatellite instability (31%) both in CRC cell lines and primary tumors. The largest isoform of MLL3 is transcribed from a CpG island-associated promoter that has highly homology with a pseudo-gene on chromosome 22 (psiTPTE22). Using an assay which measured both loci simultaneously we found prominent age related methylation in normal colon (from 21% in individuals less than 25 years old to 56% in individuals older than 70, R = 0.88, p<0.001) and frequent hypermethylation (83%) in both CRC cell lines and primary tumors. We next studied the two loci separately and found that age and cancer related methylation was solely a property of the pseudogene CpG island and that the MLL3 loci was unmethylated.
Conclusions
We found that frameshift mutations of MLL3 in both CRC cells and primary tumor that were more common in cases with microsatellite instability. Moreover, we have shown CpG island-associated promoter of MLL3 gene has no DNA methylation in CRC cells but also primary tumor and normal colon, and this region has a highly homologous of pseudo gene (psiTPTE22) that was age relate DNA methylation.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023320
PMCID: PMC3154922  PMID: 21853109
10.  Germline and somatic KLLN alterations in breast cancer dysregulate G2 arrest 
Human Molecular Genetics  2013;22(12):2451-2461.
PTEN is a well-described predisposition gene for Cowden syndrome (CS), a familial cancer syndrome characterized by a high risk of breast and other cancers. KLLN, which shares a bidirectional promoter with PTEN, causes cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. We previously identified germline hypermethylation of the KLLN promoter in 37% of PTEN mutation-negative CS/CS-like (CSL) patients. Patients with germline KLLN hypermethylation have an increased prevalence of breast and renal cancers when compared with PTEN mutation carriers. We have consequently sought to identify and characterize germline KLLN variants/mutations in CS/CSL and in apparently sporadic breast cancer patients. KLLN variants in CS/CSL patients are rare (1 of 136, 0.007%). Interestingly, among 438 breast cancer patients, 13 (3%) have germline KLLN variants when compared with none in 128 controls (P = 0.049). Patients with KLLN variants have a family history of breast cancer when compared with those without (P = 0.02). We demonstrate that germline KLLN variants dysregulate the cell cycle at G2. Of 24 breast carcinomas analyzed, 3 (13%) have somatic KLLN hemizygous deletions, with somatic loss of the wild-type allele in a patient with germline KLLN p.Leu119Leu. Of 452 breast carcinomas in The Cancer Genome Atlas project, 93 (21%) have KLLN hemizygous or homozygous deletions. This is the first study to associate germline KLLN variants with sporadic breast cancer and to recognize somatic KLLN deletions in breast carcinomas. Our observations suggest that KLLN may be a low penetrance susceptibility factor for apparently sporadic breast cancer.
doi:10.1093/hmg/ddt097
PMCID: PMC3858115  PMID: 23446638
11.  Simultaneous CXCL12 and ESR1 CpG island hypermethylation correlates with poor prognosis in sporadic breast cancer 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:23.
Background
CXCL12 is a chemokine that is constitutively expressed in many organs and tissues. CXCL12 promoter hypermethylation has been detected in primary breast tumours and contributes to their metastatic potential. It has been shown that the oestrogen receptor α (ESR1) gene can also be silenced by DNA methylation. In this study, we used methylation-specific PCR (MSP) to analyse the methylation status in two regions of the CXCL12 promoter and ESR1 in tumour cell lines and in primary breast tumour samples, and correlated our results with clinicopathological data.
Methods
First, we analysed CXCL12 expression in breast tumour cell lines by RT-PCR. We also used 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5-aza-CdR) treatment and DNA bisulphite sequencing to study the promoter methylation for a specific region of CXCL12 in breast tumour cell lines. We evaluated CXCL12 and ESR1 methylation in primary tumour samples by methylation-specific PCR (MSP). Finally, promoter hypermethylation of these genes was analysed using Fisher's exact test and correlated with clinicopathological data using the Chi square test, Kaplan-Meier survival analysis and Cox regression analysis.
Results
CXCL12 promoter hypermethylation in the first region (island 2) and second region (island 4) was correlated with lack of expression of the gene in tumour cell lines. In the primary tumours, island 2 was hypermethylated in 14.5% of the samples and island 4 was hypermethylated in 54% of the samples. The ESR1 promoter was hypermethylated in 41% of breast tumour samples. In addition, the levels of ERα protein expression diminished with increased frequency of ESR1 methylation (p < 0.0001). This study also demonstrated that CXCL12 island 4 and ESR1 methylation occur simultaneously at a high frequency (p = 0.0220).
Conclusions
This is the first study showing a simultaneous involvement of epigenetic regulation for both CXCL12 and ESR1 genes in Brazilian women. The methylation status of both genes was significantly correlated with histologically advanced disease, the presence of metastases and death. Therefore, the methylation pattern of these genes could be used as a molecular marker for the prediction of breast cancer outcome.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-23
PMCID: PMC2834618  PMID: 20109227
12.  Promoter region methylation and loss of protein expression of PTEN and significance in cervical cancer 
Biomedical Reports  2014;2(5):653-658.
The genetic basis underlying cervical tumorigenesis and progression are largely unknown. Phosphatase and tensin homologue (PTEN) is a tumor suppressor gene, and genetic changes of PTEN occurs in various types of cancer suggesting that the inactivation of PTEN may play an important role in the pathogenesis of a variety of human malignancies. In the present study, 102 cervical cancer specimens were examined for the expression of the PTEN gene and promoter methylation using methylation-specific-polymerase chain reaction and immunohistochemistry. The PTEN gene mutation was also assessed using PCR single-strand conformational polymorphism. We examined the correlation between PTEN expression and its associated methylation status and the clinical characteristics of cervical cancer. The results showed that there was one case of an A to G point mutation on exon 9 of the PTEN gene in the cervical cancer tissues. This mutation caused the change of aspartic acid to glycine, and the rate of mutation was 1%. The PTEN gene methylation rate of cervical cancer was 62% (63/102) and the rate was associated with the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics stage, cell differentiation, tumor size and lymph node metastasis (P<0.05). The positive rate of PTEN expression was 49% (50/102) in cervical carcinoma and the PTEN expression between stage I–II and III–IV [60 (27/45) vs. 40% (23/57)] was statistically significant (P<0.01). The PTEN gene expression between the metastasis and no lymph node metastasis groups [26 (10/38) vs. 63% (40/64)] was significantly different (P<0.01). The PTEN gene promoter methylation and its protein expression had a significant correlation (P=0.042). These results suggest that hypermethylation can inactivate the transcription of PTEN and reduce its protein expression. Downregulated PTEN expression is involved in the pathogenesis, invasion and metastasis of cervical cancer, possibly by regulating the balance between apoptosis and proliferation. Therefore, the PTEN expression may be a good marker for the prognosis of cervical cancer.
doi:10.3892/br.2014.298
PMCID: PMC4106585  PMID: 25054006
phosphatase and tensin homologue gene; cervical cancer; mutation; methylation; immunohistochemistry
13.  Depletion of DNMT3A Suppressed Cell Proliferation and Restored PTEN in Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cell 
Promoter hypermethylation mediated by DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) is the main reason for epigenetic inactivation of tumor suppressor genes (TSGs). Previous studies showed that DNMT1 and DNMT3B play an important role in CpG island methylation in tumorigenesis. Little is known about the role of DNMT3A in this process, especially in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). In the present study, increased DNMT3A expression in 3 out of 6 HCC cell lines and 16/25 (64%) HCC tissues implied that DNMT3A is involved in hepatocellular carcinogenesis. Depletion of DNMT3A in HCC cell line SMMC-7721 inhibited cell proliferation and decreased the colony formation (about 65%). Microarray data revealed that 153 genes were upregulated in DNMT3A knockdown cells and that almost 71% (109/153) of them contain CpG islands in their 5′ region. 13 of them including PTEN, a crucial tumor suppressor gene in HCC, are genes involved in cell cycle and cell proliferation. Demethylation of PTEN promoter was observed in DNMT3A-depleted cells implying that DNMT3A silenced PTEN via DNA methylation. These results provide insights into the mechanisms of DNMT3A to regulate TSGs by an epigenetic approach in HCC.
doi:10.1155/2010/737535
PMCID: PMC2868982  PMID: 20467490
14.  Thrombospondin-4 is a putative tumour-suppressor gene in colorectal cancer that exhibits age-related methylation 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:494.
Background
Thrombospondin-4 (THBS4) is a member of the extracellular calcium-binding protein family and is involved in cell adhesion and migration. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential role of deregulation of THBS4 expression in colorectal carcinogenesis. Of particular interest was the possible silencing of expression by methylation of the CpG island in the gene promoter.
Methods
Fifty-five sporadic colorectal tumours stratified for the CpG Island Methylator Phenotype (CIMP) were studied. Immunohistochemical staining of THBS4 protein was assessed in normal and tumour specimens. Relative levels of THBS4 transcript expression in matched tumours and normal mucosa were also determined by quantitative RT-PCR. Colony forming ability was examined in 8 cell lines made to overexpress THBS4. Aberrant promoter hypermethylation was investigated as a possible mechanism of gene disruption using MethyLight. Methylation was also assessed in the normal colonic tissue of 99 patients, with samples biopsied from four regions along the length of the colon.
Results
THBS4 expression was significantly lower in tumour tissue than in matched normal tissue. Immunohistochemical examination demonstrated that THBS4 protein was generally absent from normal epithelial cells and tumours, but was occasionally expressed at low levels in the cytoplasm towards the luminal surface in vesicular structures. Forced THBS4 over-expression caused a 50-60% repression of tumour colony growth in all eight cell lines examined compared to control cell lines. Tumours exhibited significantly higher levels of methylation than matched normal mucosa, and THBS4 methylation correlated with the CpG island methylator phenotype. There was a trend towards decreased gene expression in tumours exhibiting high THBS4 methylation, but the correlation was not significant. THBS4 methylation was detectable in normal mucosal biopsies where it correlated with increasing patient age and negatively with the occurrence of adenomas elsewhere in the colon.
Conclusions
THBS4 shows increased methylation in colorectal cancer, but this is not strongly associated with altered gene expression, either because methylation has not always reached a critical level or because other factors influence THBS4 expression. THBS4 may act as a tumour suppressor gene, demonstrated by its suppression of tumour colony formation in vitro. THBS4 methylation is detectable in normal colonic mucosa and its level may be a biomarker for the occurrence of adenomas and carcinoma.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-494
PMCID: PMC2946314  PMID: 20846368
15.  Germline Epigenetic Regulation of KILLIN in Cowden and Cowden-Like Syndromes 
Context
Germline loss-of-function PTEN mutations cause 80% of Cowden syndrome (CS), an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by high risks of breast, thyroid, and other cancers. A large heterogenous group of CS-like (CSL) individuals, who have various combinations of CS features but who do not meet CS diagnostic criteria, have PTEN mutations <10% of the time, making molecular-diagnosis, prediction, genetic-counseling and risk-management challenging. Other mechanisms of loss-of-function such as hypermethylation, which should result in under-expression of PTEN, or of KILLIN, a novel tumor suppressor transcribed in the opposite direction, may account for the remainder of CS/CSL individuals. Screening for such promoter methylation, may improve the sensitivity of molecular diagnosis.
Objective
To determine whether germline methylation is found in CS/CSL individuals lacking germline PTEN mutations.
Design/Setting/Participants
Nucleic-acids from prospective nested series of 123 CS/CSL patients and 50 unaffected individuals without PTEN germline variants analyzed for germline methylation and expression of PTEN and KILLIN (Cleveland Clinic, 2008/8–2010/6). Prevalence of component cancers between groups was compared with Fisher’s exact-test.
Main outcome measures
Frequency of germline methylation in PTEN mutation negative CS/CS-like individuals. Prevalence of component cancers in methylation-positive and PTEN mutation-positive patients.
Results
Of 123 CS/CS-like patients, 45 (37%, 95%CI 29–45%) showed hypermethylation upstream of PTEN but no transcriptional repression. The germline methylation was found to transcriptionally downregulate KILLIN 250-fold (95%CI 45–14286, P=0.007); and exclusively disrupted p53-activation of KILLIN by 30% (95%CI 7–45% (P=0.008). Demethylation treatment increased only KILLIN expression 4.88-fold (95%CI 1.4–18.1, P<0.05). Individuals with KILLIN-promoter methylation had 3-fold increased prevalence of breast cancer (35/42 vs 24/64, P<0.0001) and a >2-fold increase of kidney cancer (4/45 vs 6/155, P=0.004) over those with germline PTEN mutations.
Conclusions
Germline KILLIN- methylation is common among CS/CSL patients, and associated with increased risks of breast and renal cancer over PTEN mutation-positive patients. These observations need to be replicated.
doi:10.1001/jama.2010.1877
PMCID: PMC3655326  PMID: 21177507
Cowden syndrome; PTEN; DNA methylation; p53; bidirectional promoter
16.  The Study of DNA Methylation of bax Gene Promoter in Breast and Colorectal Carcinoma Cell Lines 
Background
The Bcl-2 protein family members have known as essential controllersof mitochondrial pathway of apoptosis. Bax has been implicated as potential tumor suppressor in certain solid tumors such as breast and colorectal carcinoma. DNA methylation of promoter associated CpG islands has known as a common mechanism for gene inactivation in tumor cells.
Methods
The Methylation Specific PCR (MSP) has used to find the methylation profile of the bax gene promoter CpG islands in colorectal and breast cancer cell lines.
Results
We have not detected any kind of "CpG islands hypermethylation" in promoter region of the bax gene in T47D, MCF7 (as ER positive), MDA-MB-231 and MDA-MB-468 (as ER negative) breast carcinoma-derived cell lines and colorectal cancer cell lines H29 and Caco II.
Conclusion
It seems that CpG island methylation could not play the main role in down-regulation of bax gene in breast and colon cancers.
PMCID: PMC4142912  PMID: 25250112
CpG island; DNA methylations; Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR); Breast cancer; Colorectal cancer
17.  Promoter methylation correlates with reduced NDRG2 expression in advanced colon tumour 
BMC Medical Genomics  2009;2:11.
Background
Aberrant DNA methylation of CpG islands of cancer-related genes is among the earliest and most frequent alterations in cancerogenesis and might be of value for either diagnosing cancer or evaluating recurrent disease. This mechanism usually leads to inactivation of tumour-suppressor genes. We have designed the current study to validate our previous microarray data and to identify novel hypermethylated gene promoters.
Methods
The validation assay was performed in a different set of 8 patients with colorectal cancer (CRC) by means quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction analysis. The differential RNA expression profiles of three CRC cell lines before and after 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine treatment were compared to identify the hypermethylated genes. The DNA methylation status of these genes was evaluated by means of bisulphite genomic sequencing and methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction (MSP) in the 3 cell lines and in tumour tissues from 30 patients with CRC.
Results
Data from our previous genome search have received confirmation in the new set of 8 patients with CRC. In this validation set six genes showed a high induction after drug treatment in at least two of three CRC cell lines. Among them, the N-myc downstream-regulated gene 2 (NDRG2) promoter was found methylated in all CRC cell lines. NDRG2 hypermethylation was also detected in 8 out of 30 (27%) primary CRC tissues and was significantly associated with advanced AJCC stage IV. Normal colon tissues were not methylated.
Conclusion
The findings highlight the usefulness of combining gene expression patterns and epigenetic data to identify tumour biomarkers, and suggest that NDRG2 silencing might bear influence on tumour invasiveness, being associated with a more advanced stage.
doi:10.1186/1755-8794-2-11
PMCID: PMC2660908  PMID: 19257893
18.  Methylation profiles of thirty four promoter-CpG islands and concordant methylation behaviours of sixteen genes that may contribute to carcinogenesis of astrocytoma 
BMC Cancer  2004;4:65.
Background
Astrocytoma is a common aggressive intracranial tumor and presents a formidable challenge in the clinic. Association of altered DNA methylation patterns of the promoter CpG islands with the expression profile of cancer-related genes, has been found in many human tumors. Therefore, DNA methylation status as such may serve as an epigenetic biomarker for both diagnosis and prognosis of human tumors, including astrocytoma.
Methods
We used the methylation specific PCR in conjunction with sequencing verification to establish the methylation profile of the promoter CpG island of thirty four genes in astrocytoma tissues from fifty three patients (The WHO grading:. I: 14, II: 15, III: 12 and IV: 12 cases, respectively). In addition, compatible tissues (normal tissues distant from lesion) from three non-astrocytoma patients were included as the control.
Results
Seventeen genes (ABL, APC, APAF1, BRCA1, CSPG2, DAPK1, hMLH1, LKB1, PTEN, p14ARF, p15INK4b, p27KIP1, p57KIP2, RASSF1C, RB1, SURVIVIN, and VHL) displayed a uniformly unmethylated pattern in all the astrocytoma and non-astrocytoma tissues examined. However, the MAGEA1 gene that was inactivated and hypermethylated in non-astrocytoma tissues, was partially demethylated in 24.5% of the astrocytoma tissues (co-existence of the hypermethylated and demethylated alleles). Of the astrocytoma associated hypermethylated genes, the methylation pattern of the CDH13, cyclin a1, DBCCR1, EPO, MYOD1, and p16INK4a genes changed in no more than 5.66% (3/53) of astrocytoma tissues compared to non-astrocytoma controls, while the RASSF1A, p73, AR, MGMT, CDH1, OCT6,, MT1A, WT1, and IRF7 genes were more frequently hypermethylated in 69.8%, 47.2%, 41.5%, 35.8%, 32%, 30.2%, 30.2%, 30.2% and 26.4% of astrocytoma tissues, respectively. Demethylation mediated inducible expression of the CDH13, MAGEA1, MGMT, p73 and RASSF1A genes was established in an astrocytoma cell line (U251), demonstrating that expression of these genes is likely regulated by DNA methylation. AR gene hypermethylation was found exclusively in female patients (22/27, 81%, 0/26, 0%, P < 0.001), while the IRF7 gene hypermethylation preferentially occurred in the male counterparts (11/26, 42.3% to 3/27, 11%, P < 0.05). Applying the mathematic method "the Discovery of Association Rules", we have identified groups consisting of up to three genes that more likely display the altered methylation patterns in concert in astrocytoma.
Conclusions
Of the thirty four genes examined, sixteen genes exhibited astrocytoma associated changes in the methylation profile. In addition to the possible pathological significance, the established concordant methylation profiles of the subsets consisting of two to three target genes may provide useful clues to the development of the useful prognostic as well as diagnostic assays for astrocytoma.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-4-65
PMCID: PMC520749  PMID: 15367334
19.  CpG Island Methylation in a Mouse Model of Lymphoma Is Driven by the Genetic Configuration of Tumor Cells 
PLoS Genetics  2007;3(9):e167.
Hypermethylation of CpG islands is a common epigenetic alteration associated with cancer. Global patterns of hypermethylation are tumor-type specific and nonrandom. The biological significance and the underlying mechanisms of tumor-specific aberrant promoter methylation remain unclear, but some evidence suggests that this specificity involves differential sequence susceptibilities, the targeting of DNA methylation activity to specific promoter sequences, or the selection of rare DNA methylation events during disease progression. Using restriction landmark genomic scanning on samples derived from tissue culture and in vivo models of T cell lymphomas, we found that MYC overexpression gave rise to a specific signature of CpG island hypermethylation. This signature reflected gene transcription profiles and was detected only in advanced stages of disease. The further inactivation of the Pten, p53, and E2f2 tumor suppressors in MYC-induced lymphomas resulted in distinct and diagnostic CpG island methylation signatures. Our data suggest that tumor-specific DNA methylation in lymphomas arises as a result of the selection of rare DNA methylation events during the course of tumor development. This selection appears to be driven by the genetic configuration of tumor cells, providing experimental evidence for a causal role of DNA hypermethylation in tumor progression and an explanation for the tremendous epigenetic heterogeneity observed in the evolution of human cancers. The ability to predict genome-wide epigenetic silencing based on relatively few genetic alterations will allow for a more complete classification of tumors and understanding of tumor cell biology.
Author Summary
Genetic and epigenetic alterations of the genome are common features of cancers. The relationship between these two types of alterations, however, remains unclear. One type of epigenetic modification—DNA methylation in promoter sequences of genes—is of particular interest, since tumor cells have different patterns of promoter methylation than normal cells. Previous studies on human tumor samples have suggested a link between genetic alterations and the induction of aberrant DNA methylation; however, this link has been difficult to rigorously assess because of the incredible genetic heterogeneity found in human cancer. In this study, a mouse model of T cell lymphoma was used to explore the relationship between genetic and epigenetic modifications experienced by tumor cells. By introducing defined genetic changes into preneoplastic T cells of mice, such as the overexpression of the MYC oncogene and the ablation of tumor suppressor genes, we could carefully evaluate how these genetic changes impacted promoter methylation profiles during development of lymphomas in vivo. We found that the introduction of different genetic insults resulted in unique and diagnostic profiles of promoter methylation. Understanding how these methylation signatures contribute to tumor progression could eventually have diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic value for human cancers.
doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.0030167
PMCID: PMC1994712  PMID: 17907813
20.  Altered chromatin structure associated with methylation-induced gene silencing in cancer cells: correlation of accessibility, methylation, MeCP2 binding and acetylation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2001;29(22):4598-4606.
Silencing of tumor-suppressor genes by hypermethylation of promoter CpG islands is well documented in human cancer and may be mediated by methyl-CpG-binding proteins, like MeCP2, that are associated in vivo with chromatin modifiers and transcriptional repressors. However, the exact dynamic between methylation and chromatin structure in the regulation of gene expression is not well understood. In this study, we have analyzed the methylation status and chromatin structure of three CpG islands in the p14(ARF)/p16(INK4A) locus in a series of normal and cancer cell lines using methylation-sensitive digestion, MspI accessibility in intact nuclei and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays. We demonstrate the existence of an altered chromatin structure associated with the silencing of tumor-suppressor genes in human cancer cell lines involving CpG island methylation, chromatin condensation, histone deacetylation and MeCP2 binding. The data showed that MeCP2 could bind to methylated CpG islands in both promoters and exons; MeCP2 does not interfere with transcription when bound at an exon, suggesting a more generalized role for the protein beyond transcriptional repression. In the absence of methylation, it is demonstrated that CpG islands located in promoters versus exons display marked differences in the levels of acetylation of associated histone H3, suggesting that chromatin remodeling can be achieved by methylation-independent processes and perhaps explaining why non-promoter CpG islands are more susceptible to de novo methylation than promoter islands.
PMCID: PMC92514  PMID: 11713309
21.  CpG island hypermethylation-associated silencing of small nucleolar RNAs in human cancer 
RNA Biology  2012;9(6):881-890.
Much effort in cancer research has focused on the tiny part of our genome that codes for mRNA. However, it has recently been recognized that microRNAs also contribute decisively to tumorigenesis. Studies have also shown that epigenetic silencing by CpG island hypermethylation of microRNAs with tumor suppressor activities is a common feature of human cancer. The importance of other classes of non-coding RNAs, such as long intergenic ncRNAs (lincRNAs) and transcribed ultraconserved regions (T-UCRs) as altered elements in neoplasia, is also gaining recognition. Thus, we wondered whether there were other ncRNAs undergoing CpG island hypermethylation-associated inactivation in cancer cells. We focused on the small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs), a subset of ncRNA with a wide variety of cellular functions, such as chemical modification of RNA, pre-RNA processing and control of alternative splicing. By data mining snoRNA databases and the scientific literature, we selected 49 snoRNAs that had a CpG island within ≤ 2 Kb or that were processed from a host gene with a 5′-CpG island. Bisulfite genomic sequencing of multiple clones in normal colon mucosa and the colorectal cancer cell line HCT-116 showed that 46 snoRNAs were equally methylated in the two samples: completely unmethylated (n = 26) or fully methylated (n = 20). Most interestingly, the host gene-associated 5′-CpG islands of the snoRNAs SNORD123, U70C and ACA59B were hypermethylated in the cancer cells but not in the corresponding normal tissue. CpG island hypermethylation was associated with the transcriptional silencing of the respective snoRNAs. Results of a DNA methylation microarray platform in a comprehensive collection of normal tissues, cancer cell lines and primary malignancies demonstrated that the observed hypermethylation of snoRNAs was a common feature of various tumor types, particularly in leukemias. Overall, our findings indicate the existence of a new subclass of ncRNAs, snoRNAs, that are targeted by epigenetic inactivation in human cancer.
doi:10.4161/rna.19353
PMCID: PMC3495749  PMID: 22617881
DNA Methylation; epigenetics; non-coding RNA; small nucleolar RNAs
22.  A coding-independent function of gene and pseudogene mRNAs regulates tumour biology 
Nature  2010;465(7301):1033-1038.
The canonical role of messenger RNA (mRNA) is to deliver protein-coding information to sites of protein synthesis. However, given that microRNAs bind to RNAs, we hypothesized that RNAs possess a biological role in cancer cells that relies upon their ability to compete for microRNA binding and is independent of their protein-coding function. As a paradigm for the protein-coding-independent role of RNAs, we describe the functional relationship between the mRNAs produced by the PTEN tumour suppressor gene and its pseudogene (PTENP1) and the critical consequences of this interaction. We find that PTENP1 is biologically active as determined by its ability to regulate cellular levels of PTEN, and that it can exert a growth-suppressive role. We also show that PTENP1 locus is selectively lost in human cancer. We extend our analysis to other cancer-related genes that possess pseudogenes, such as oncogenic KRAS. Further, we demonstrate that the transcripts of protein coding genes such as PTEN are also biologically active. Together, these findings attribute a novel biological role to expressed pseudogenes, as they can regulate coding gene expression, and reveal a non-coding function for mRNAs.
doi:10.1038/nature09144
PMCID: PMC3206313  PMID: 20577206
23.  Aberrant septin 9 DNA methylation in colorectal cancer is restricted to a single CpG island 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:398.
Background
The septin 9 gene (SEPT9) codes for a GTP-binding protein associated with filamentous structures and cytoskeleton formation. SEPT9 plays a role in multiple cancers as either an oncogene or a tumor suppressor gene. Regulation of SEPT9 expression is complex and not well understood; however, hypermethylation of the gene was recently introduced as a biomarker for early detection of colorectal cancer (CRC) and has been linked to cancer of the breast and of the head and neck. Because the DNA methylation landscape of different regions of SEPT9 is poorly understood in cancer, we analyzed the methylation patterns of this gene in distinct cell populations from normal and diseased colon mucosa.
Methods
Laser capture microdissection was performed to obtain homogeneous populations of epithelial and stromal cells from normal, adenomatous, and tumorous colon mucosa. Microdissected samples were analyzed using direct bisulfite sequencing to determine the DNA methylation status of eight regions within and near the SEPT9 gene. Septin-9 protein expression was assessed using immunohistochemistry (IHC).
Results
Regions analyzed in SEPT9 were unmethylated in normal tissue except for a methylation boundary detected downstream of the largest CpG island. In adenoma and tumor tissues, epithelial cells displayed markedly increased DNA methylation levels (>80%, p <0.0001) in only one of the CpG islands investigated. SEPT9 methylation in stromal cells increased in adenomatous and tumor tissues (≤50%, p <0.0001); however, methylation did not increase in stromal cells of normal tissue close to the tumor. IHC data indicated a significant decrease (p <0.01) in Septin-9 protein levels in epithelial cells derived from adenoma and tumor tissues; Septin-9 protein levels in stromal cells were low in all tissues.
Conclusions
Hypermethylation of SEPT9 in adenoma and CRC specimens is confined to one of several CpG islands of this gene. Tumor-associated aberrant methylation originates in epithelial cells; stromal cells appear to acquire hypermethylation subsequent to epithelial cells, possibly through field effects. The region in SEPT9 with disease-related hypermethylation also contains the CpGs targeted by a novel blood-based screening test (Epi proColon®), providing further support for the clinical relevance of this biomarker.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-13-398
PMCID: PMC3837632  PMID: 23988185
DNA methylation; Septin 9; Colorectal cancer; Adenoma; Epithelial cells; Stromal cells; Direct bisulfite sequencing; Immunohistochemistry
24.  Detection of functional PTEN lipid phosphatase protein and enzyme activity in squamous cell carcinomas of the head andeck, despite loss of heterozygosity at this locus 
British Journal of Cancer  2001;84(12):1630-1634.
The human tumour suppressor gene PTEN located at 10q23 is mutated in a variety of tumour types particularly metastatic cases and in the germline of some individuals with Cowdens cancer predisposition syndrome. We have assessed the status of PTEN and associated pathways in cell lines derived from 19 squamous cell carcinomas of the head and neck. Loss of heterozygosity is evident at, or close to the PTEN gene in 5 cases, however there were no mutations in the remaining alleles. Furthermore by Western analysis PTEN protein levels are normal in all of these SCC-HN tumours and cell lines. To assess the possibility that PTEN may be inactivated by another mechanism, we characterized lipid phosphatase levels and from a specific PIP3 biochemical assay it is clear that PTEN is functionally active in all 19 human SCCs. Our data strongly suggest the possibility that a tumour suppressor gene associated with development of SCC-HN, other than PTEN, is located in this chromosomal region. This gene does not appear to be MXI-1, which has been implicated in some other human tumour types. PTEN is an important negative regulator of PI3Kinase, of which subunit alpha is frequently amplified in SCC-HN. To examine the possibility that PI3K is upregulated by amplification in this tumour set we assessed the phosphorylation status of Akt, a downstream target of PI3K. In all cases there is no detectable increase in Akt phosphorylation. Therefore there is no detectable defect in the PI3K pathway in SCC-HN suggesting that the reason for 3q26.3 over-representation may be due to genes other than PI3K110α. © 2001 Cancer Research Campaign http://www.bjcancer.com
doi:10.1054/bjoc.2001.1848
PMCID: PMC2363680  PMID: 11401316
PTEN; LOH; carcinoma; P13K
25.  Convergence of Mutation and Epigenetic Alterations Identifies Common Genes in Cancer That Predict for Poor Prognosis  
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e114.
Background
The identification and characterization of tumor suppressor genes has enhanced our understanding of the biology of cancer and enabled the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic modalities. Whereas in past decades, a handful of tumor suppressors have been slowly identified using techniques such as linkage analysis, large-scale sequencing of the cancer genome has enabled the rapid identification of a large number of genes that are mutated in cancer. However, determining which of these many genes play key roles in cancer development has proven challenging. Specifically, recent sequencing of human breast and colon cancers has revealed a large number of somatic gene mutations, but virtually all are heterozygous, occur at low frequency, and are tumor-type specific. We hypothesize that key tumor suppressor genes in cancer may be subject to mutation or hypermethylation.
Methods and Findings
Here, we show that combined genetic and epigenetic analysis of these genes reveals many with a higher putative tumor suppressor status than would otherwise be appreciated. At least 36 of the 189 genes newly recognized to be mutated are targets of promoter CpG island hypermethylation, often in both colon and breast cancer cell lines. Analyses of primary tumors show that 18 of these genes are hypermethylated strictly in primary cancers and often with an incidence that is much higher than for the mutations and which is not restricted to a single tumor-type. In the identical breast cancer cell lines in which the mutations were identified, hypermethylation is usually, but not always, mutually exclusive from genetic changes for a given tumor, and there is a high incidence of concomitant loss of expression. Sixteen out of 18 (89%) of these genes map to loci deleted in human cancers. Lastly, and most importantly, the reduced expression of a subset of these genes strongly correlates with poor clinical outcome.
Conclusions
Using an unbiased genome-wide approach, our analysis has enabled the discovery of a number of clinically significant genes targeted by multiple modes of inactivation in breast and colon cancer. Importantly, we demonstrate that a subset of these genes predict strongly for poor clinical outcome. Our data define a set of genes that are targeted by both genetic and epigenetic events, predict for clinical prognosis, and are likely fundamentally important for cancer initiation or progression.
Stephen Baylin and colleagues show that a combined genetic and epigenetic analysis of breast and colon cancers identifies a number of clinically significant genes targeted by multiple modes of inactivation.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Cancer is one of the developed world's biggest killers—over half a million Americans die of cancer each year, for instance. As a result, there is great interest in understanding the genetic and environmental causes of cancer in order to improve cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
Cancer begins when cells begin to multiply out of control. DNA is the sequence of coded instructions—genes—for how to build and maintain the body. Certain “tumor suppressor” genes, for instance, help to prevent cancer by preventing tumors from developing, but changes that alter the DNA code sequence—mutations—can profoundly affect how a gene works. Modern techniques of genetic analysis have identified genes such as tumor suppressors that, when mutated, are linked to the development of certain cancers.
Why Was This Study Done?
However, in recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that mutations are neither necessary nor sufficient to explain every case of cancer. This has led researchers to look at so-called epigenetic factors, which also alter how a gene works without altering its DNA sequence. An example of this is “methylation,” which prevents a gene from being expressed—deactivates it—by a chemical tag. Methylation of genes is part of the normal functioning of DNA, but abnormal methylation has been linked with cancer, aging, and some rare birth abnormalities.
Previous analysis of DNA from breast and colon cancer cells had revealed 189 “candidate cancer genes”—mutated genes that were linked to the development of breast and colon cancer. However, it was not clear how those mutations gave rise to cancer, and individual mutations were present in only 5% to 15% of specific tumors. The authors of this study wanted to know whether epigenetic factors such as methylation contributed to causing the cancers.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first identified 56 of the 189 candidate cancer genes as likely tumor suppressors and then determined that 36 of these genes were methylated and deactivated, often in both breast and colon (laboratory-grown) cancer cells. In nearly all cases, the methylated genes were not active but could be reactivated by being demethylated. They further showed that, in normal colon and breast tissue samples, 18 of the 36 genes were unmethylated and functioned normally, but in cells taken from breast and colon cancer tumors they were methylated.
In contrast to the genetic mutations, the 18 genes were frequently methylated across a range of tumor types, and eight genes were methylated in both the breast and colon cancers. The authors found by reviewing the genetics and epigenetics of those 18 genes in breast and colon cancer that they were either mutated, methylated, or both. A literature review showed that at least six of the 18 genes were known to have tumor suppressor properties, and the authors determined that 16 were located in parts of DNA known to be missing from cells taken from a range of cancer tumors.
Finally, the researchers analyzed data on cancer cases to show that methylation of these 18 genes was correlated with reduced function of these genes in tumors and with a greater likelihood that a cancer will be terminal or spread to other parts of the body.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The researchers considered only the 189 candidate cancer genes found in one previous study and not other genes identified elsewhere. They also did not consider the biological effects of the individual mutations found in those genes. Despite this, they have demonstrated that methylation of specific genes is likely to play a role in the development of breast and/or colon cancer cells either together with mutations or independently, most likely by turning off their tumor suppression function.
More broadly, however, the study adds to the evidence that future analysis of the role of genes in cancer should include epigenetic as well as genetic factors. In addition, the authors have also shown that a number of these genes may be useful for predicting clinical outcomes for a range of tumor types.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050114.
A December 2006 PLoS Medicine Perspective article reviews the value of examining methylation as a factor in common cancers and its use for early detection
The Web site of the American Cancer Society has a wealth of information and resources on a variety of cancers, including breast and colon cancer
Breastcancer.org is a nonprofit organization providing information about breast cancer on the Web, including research news
Cancer Research UK provides information on cancer research
The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins publishes background information on the authors' research on methylation, setting out its potential for earlier diagnosis and better treatment of cancer
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050114
PMCID: PMC2429944  PMID: 18507500

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