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1.  Genome-wide DNA methylation profiles in progression to in situ and invasive carcinoma of the breast with impact on gene transcription and prognosis 
Genome Biology  2014;15(8):435.
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) of the breast is a precursor of invasive breast carcinoma. DNA methylation alterations are thought to be an early event in progression of cancer, and may prove valuable as a tool in clinical decision making and for understanding neoplastic development.
We generate genome-wide DNA methylation profiles of 285 breast tissue samples representing progression of cancer, and validate methylation changes between normal and DCIS in an independent dataset of 15 normal and 40 DCIS samples. We also validate a prognostic signature on 583 breast cancer samples from The Cancer Genome Atlas. Our analysis reveals that DNA methylation profiles of DCIS are radically altered compared to normal breast tissue, involving more than 5,000 genes. Changes between DCIS and invasive breast carcinoma involve around 1,000 genes. In tumors, DNA methylation is associated with gene expression of almost 3,000 genes, including both negative and positive correlations. A prognostic signature based on methylation level of 18 CpGs is associated with survival of breast cancer patients with invasive tumors, as well as with survival of patients with DCIS and mixed lesions of DCIS and invasive breast carcinoma.
This work demonstrates that changes in the epigenome occur early in the neoplastic progression, provides evidence for the possible utilization of DNA methylation-based markers of progression in the clinic, and highlights the importance of epigenetic changes in carcinogenesis.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13059-014-0435-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4165906  PMID: 25146004
2.  No evidence for copy number and methylation variation in H19 and KCNQ10T1 imprinting control regions in children born small for gestational age 
BMC Medical Genetics  2014;15:67.
There is a substantial genetic component for birthweight variation, and although there are known associations between fetal genotype and birthweight, the role of common epigenetic variation in influencing the risk for small for gestational age (SGA) is unknown. The two imprinting control regions (ICRs) located on chromosome 11p15.5, involved in the overgrowth disorder Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome (BWS) and the growth restriction disorder Silver-Russell syndrome (SRS), are prime epigenetic candidates for regulating fetal growth. We investigated whether common variation in copy number in the BWS/SRS 11p15 region or altered methylation levels at IGF2/H19 ICR or KCNQ10T1 ICR was associated with SGA.
We used a methylation-specific multiplex-ligation-dependent probe amplification assay to analyse copy number variation in the 11p15 region and methylation of IGF2/H19 and KCNQ10T1 ICRs in blood samples from 153 children (including 80 SGA), as well as bisulfite pyrosequencing to measure methylation at IGF2 differentially methylated region (DMR)0 and H19 DMR.
No copy number variants were detected in the analyzed cohort. Children born SGA had 2.7% lower methylation at the IGF2 DMR0. No methylation differences were detected at the H19 or KCNQ10T1 DMRs.
We confirm that a small hypomethylation of the IGF2 DMR0 is detected in peripheral blood leucocytes of children born SGA at term. Copy number variation within the 11p15 BWS/SRS region is not an important cause of non-syndromic SGA at term.
PMCID: PMC4089969  PMID: 24934635
DNA methylation; Imprinting; ICR2; ICR1; H19; KCNQ10T1; Small for gestational age
3.  Individual and combined effects of DNA methylation and copy number alterations on miRNA expression in breast tumors 
Genome Biology  2013;14(11):R126.
The global effect of copy number and epigenetic alterations on miRNA expression in cancer is poorly understood. In the present study, we integrate genome-wide DNA methylation, copy number and miRNA expression and identify genetic mechanisms underlying miRNA dysregulation in breast cancer.
We identify 70 miRNAs whose expression was associated with alterations in copy number or methylation, or both. Among these, five miRNA families are represented. Interestingly, the members of these families are encoded on different chromosomes and are complementarily altered by gain or hypomethylation across the patients. In an independent breast cancer cohort of 123 patients, 41 of the 70 miRNAs were confirmed with respect to aberration pattern and association to expression. In vitro functional experiments were performed in breast cancer cell lines with miRNA mimics to evaluate the phenotype of the replicated miRNAs. let-7e-3p, which in tumors is found associated with hypermethylation, is shown to induce apoptosis and reduce cell viability, and low let-7e-3p expression is associated with poorer prognosis. The overexpression of three other miRNAs associated with copy number gain, miR-21-3p, miR-148b-3p and miR-151a-5p, increases proliferation of breast cancer cell lines. In addition, miR-151a-5p enhances the levels of phosphorylated AKT protein.
Our data provide novel evidence of the mechanisms behind miRNA dysregulation in breast cancer. The study contributes to the understanding of how methylation and copy number alterations influence miRNA expression, emphasizing miRNA functionality through redundant encoding, and suggests novel miRNAs important in breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC4053776  PMID: 24257477
4.  Quantitative DNA methylation analyses reveal stage dependent DNA methylation and association to clinico-pathological factors in breast tumors 
BMC Cancer  2013;13:456.
Aberrant DNA methylation of regulatory genes has frequently been found in human breast cancers and correlated to clinical outcome. In the present study we investigate stage specific changes in the DNA methylation patterns in order to identify valuable markers to understand how these changes affect breast cancer progression.
Quantitative DNA methylation analyses of 12 candidate genes ABCB1, BRCCA1, CDKN2A, ESR1, GSTP1, IGF2, MGMT, HMLH1, PPP2R2B, PTEN, RASSF1A and FOXC1 was performed by pyrosequencing a series of 238 breast cancer tissue samples from DCIS to invasive tumors stage I to IV.
Significant differences in methylation levels between the DCIS and invasive stage II tumors were observed for six genes RASSF1A, CDKN2A, MGMT, ABCB1, GSTP1 and FOXC1. RASSF1A, ABCB1 and GSTP1 showed significantly higher methylation levels in late stage compared to the early stage breast carcinoma. Z-score analysis revealed significantly lower methylation levels in DCIS and stage I tumors compared with stage II, III and IV tumors. Methylation levels of PTEN, PPP2R2B, FOXC1, ABCB1 and BRCA1 were lower in tumors harboring TP53 mutations then in tumors with wild type TP53. Z-score analysis showed that TP53 mutated tumors had significantly lower overall methylation levels compared to tumors with wild type TP53. Methylation levels of RASSF1A, PPP2R2B, GSTP1 and FOXC1 were higher in ER positive vs. ER negative tumors and methylation levels of PTEN and CDKN2A were higher in HER2 positive vs. HER2 negative tumors. Z-score analysis also showed that HER2 positive tumors had significantly higher z-scores of methylation compared to the HER2 negative tumors. Univariate survival analysis identifies methylation status of PPP2R2B as significant predictor of overall survival and breast cancer specific survival.
In the present study we report that the level of aberrant DNA methylation is higher in late stage compared with early stage of invasive breast cancers and DCIS for genes mentioned above.
PMCID: PMC3819713  PMID: 24093668
Breast cancer; DNA methylation; Methylation index; Stage; TP53
6.  Differences in Transcription Patterns between Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Produced from the Same Germ Layer Are Erased upon Differentiation 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53033.
Little is known about differences between induced pluripotent stem cells produced from tissues originating from the same germ layer. We have generated human myoblast-derived iPS cells by retroviral transduction of human primary myoblasts with the OCT3/4, SOX2, KLF4 and MYC coding sequences and compared them to iPS produced from human primary fibroblasts. When cultivated in vitro, these iPS cells proved similar to human embryonic stem cells in terms of morphology, expression of embryonic stemness markers and gene promoter methylation patterns. Embryonic bodies were derived that expressed endodermal, mesodermal as well as ectodermal markers. A comparative analysis of transcription patterns revealed significant differences in the gene expression pattern between myoblast- and fibroblast-derived iPS cells. However, these differences were reduced in the mesenchymal stem cells derived from the two iPS cell types were compared.
PMCID: PMC3541362  PMID: 23326377
7.  Establishment and Characterization of a Highly Tumourigenic and Cancer Stem Cell Enriched Pancreatic Cancer Cell Line as a Well Defined Model System 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48503.
Standard cancer cell lines do not model the intratumoural heterogeneity situation sufficiently. Clonal selection leads to a homogeneous population of cells by genetic drift. Heterogeneity of tumour cells, however, is particularly critical for therapeutically relevant studies, since it is a prerequisite for acquiring drug resistance and reoccurrence of tumours. Here, we report the isolation of a highly tumourigenic primary pancreatic cancer cell line, called JoPaca-1 and its detailed characterization at multiple levels. Implantation of as few as 100 JoPaca-1 cells into immunodeficient mice gave rise to tumours that were histologically very similar to the primary tumour. The high heterogeneity of JoPaca-1 was reflected by diverse cell morphology and a substantial number of chromosomal aberrations. Comparative whole-genome sequencing of JoPaca-1 and BxPC-3 revealed mutations in genes frequently altered in pancreatic cancer. Exceptionally high expression of cancer stem cell markers and a high clonogenic potential in vitro and in vivo was observed. All of these attributes make this cell line an extremely valuable model to study the biology of and pharmaceutical effects on pancreatic cancer.
PMCID: PMC3495919  PMID: 23152778
8.  Lentiviral Transduction of CD34+ Cells Induces Genome-Wide Epigenetic Modifications 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48943.
Epigenetic modifications may occur during in vitro manipulations of stem cells but these effects have remained unexplored in the context of cell and gene therapy protocols. In an experimental model of ex vivo gene modification for hematopoietic gene therapy, human CD34+ cells were cultured shortly in the presence of cytokines then with a gene transfer lentiviral vector (LV) expected to transduce cells but to have otherwise limited biological effects on the cells. At the end of the culture, the population of cells remained largely similar at the phenotypic level but some epigenetic changes were evident. Exposure of CD34+ cells to cytokines increased nuclear expression of epigenetic regulators SIRT1 or DNMT1 and caused genome-wide DNA methylation changes. Surprisingly, the LV caused additional and distinct effects. Large-scale genomic DNA methylation analysis showed that balanced methylation changes occurred in about 200 genes following culture of CD34+ cells in the presence of cytokines but 900 genes were modified following addition of the LV, predominantly increasing CpG methylation. Epigenetic effects resulting from ex vivo culture and from the use of LV may constitute previously unsuspected sources of biological effects in stem cells and may provide new biomarkers to rationally optimize gene and cell therapy protocols.
PMCID: PMC3492239  PMID: 23145033
9.  IGF2/H19 hypomethylation in a patient with very low birthweight, preocious pubarche and insulin resistance 
BMC Medical Genetics  2012;13:42.
Insulin like growth factor 2 (IGF2) is an imprinted gene, which has an important role in fetal growth as established in mice models. IGF2 is downregulated through hypomethylation of a differentially methylated region (DMR) in Silver Russell syndrome (SRS), characterised by growth restriction. We have previously reported that severe pre- and post-natal growth restriction associated with insulin resistance and precocious pubarche in a woman without body asymmetry or other SRS features resulted from a balanced translocation affecting the regulation of her IGF2 gene expression. We hypothesised that severe pre- and post-natal growth restriction associated with insulin resistance and precocious pubarche in the absence of SRS are also caused by downregulation of IGF2 through hypomethylation, gene mutation or structural chromosomal abnormalities.
We performed routine karyotyping, IGF2 gene sequencing and investigated DNA methylation of the IGF2 differentially methylated region (DMR)0 and H19 DMR using pyrosequencing, in four women selected for very low birth weight (<−3 SDS for gestational age), precocious pubarche, short adult stature (<−2 SDS), and insulin resistance (defined as HOMA-IS < 80%); and compared their methylation results to those of 95 control subjects.
We identified a 20 year old woman with severe hypomethylation at both DMRs. She was the smallest at birth (birthweight SDS,-3.9), and had the shortest adult height (143 cm). The patient was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome at the age of 15 years, and had impaired fasting glucose in the presence of a low BMI (19.2 kg/m2).
Our case of growth restriction, premature pubarche and insulin resistance in the absence of body asymmetry or other features of SRS adds to the expanding phenotype of IGF2/H19 methylation abnormalities. Further studies are needed to confirm whether growth restriction in association with premature pubarche and insulin resistance is a specific manifestation of reduced IGF2 expression.
PMCID: PMC3459807  PMID: 22646060
Insulin like growth factor 2; Intrauterine growth restriction; Short stature; Insulin resistance
10.  Identification of Type 1 Diabetes–Associated DNA Methylation Variable Positions That Precede Disease Diagnosis 
PLoS Genetics  2011;7(9):e1002300.
Monozygotic (MZ) twin pair discordance for childhood-onset Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) is ∼50%, implicating roles for genetic and non-genetic factors in the aetiology of this complex autoimmune disease. Although significant progress has been made in elucidating the genetics of T1D in recent years, the non-genetic component has remained poorly defined. We hypothesized that epigenetic variation could underlie some of the non-genetic component of T1D aetiology and, thus, performed an epigenome-wide association study (EWAS) for this disease. We generated genome-wide DNA methylation profiles of purified CD14+ monocytes (an immune effector cell type relevant to T1D pathogenesis) from 15 T1D–discordant MZ twin pairs. This identified 132 different CpG sites at which the direction of the intra-MZ pair DNA methylation difference significantly correlated with the diabetic state, i.e. T1D–associated methylation variable positions (T1D–MVPs). We confirmed these T1D–MVPs display statistically significant intra-MZ pair DNA methylation differences in the expected direction in an independent set of T1D–discordant MZ pairs (P = 0.035). Then, to establish the temporal origins of the T1D–MVPs, we generated two further genome-wide datasets and established that, when compared with controls, T1D–MVPs are enriched in singletons both before (P = 0.001) and at (P = 0.015) disease diagnosis, and also in singletons positive for diabetes-associated autoantibodies but disease-free even after 12 years follow-up (P = 0.0023). Combined, these results suggest that T1D–MVPs arise very early in the etiological process that leads to overt T1D. Our EWAS of T1D represents an important contribution toward understanding the etiological role of epigenetic variation in type 1 diabetes, and it is also the first systematic analysis of the temporal origins of disease-associated epigenetic variation for any human complex disease.
Author Summary
Type 1 diabetes (T1D) is a complex autoimmune disease affecting >30 million people worldwide. It is caused by a combination of genetic and non-genetic factors, leading to destruction of insulin-secreting cells. Although significant progress has recently been made in elucidating the genetics of T1D, the non-genetic component has remained poorly defined. Epigenetic modifications, such as methylation of DNA, are indispensable for genomic processes such as transcriptional regulation and are frequently perturbed in human disease. We therefore hypothesized that epigenetic variation could underlie some of the non-genetic component of T1D aetiology, and we performed a genome-wide DNA methylation analysis of a specific subset of immune cells (monocytes) from monozygotic twins discordant for T1D. This revealed the presence of T1D–specific methylation variable positions (T1D–MVPs) in the T1D–affected co-twins. Since these T1D–MVPs were found in MZ twins, they cannot be due to genetic differences. Additional experiments revealed that some of these T1D–MVPs are found in individuals before T1D diagnosis, suggesting they arise very early in the process that leads to overt T1D and are not simply due to post-disease associated factors (e.g. medication or long-term metabolic changes). T1D–MVPs may thus potentially represent a previously unappreciated, and important, component of type 1 diabetes risk.
PMCID: PMC3183089  PMID: 21980303
11.  Specific epigenetic alterations of IGF2-H19 locus in spermatozoa from infertile men 
DNA methylation marks, a key modification of imprinting, are erased in primordial germ cells and sex specifically re-established during gametogenesis. Abnormal epigenetic programming has been proposed as a possible mechanism compromising male fertility. We analysed by pyrosequencing the DNA methylation status of 47 CpGs located in differentially methylated regions (DMRs), the DMR0 and DMR2 of the IGF2 gene and in the 3rd and 6th CTCF-binding sites of the H19 DMR in human sperm from men with normal semen and patients with teratozoospermia (T) and/or oligo-astheno-teratozoospermia (OAT). All normal semen samples presented the expected high global methylation level for all CpGs analysed. In the teratozoospermia group, 11 of 19 patients presented a loss of methylation at variable CpG positions either in the IGF2 DMR2 or in both the IGF2 DMR2 and the 6th CTCF of the H19 DMR. In the OAT group, 16 of 22 patients presented a severe loss of methylation of the 6th CTCF, closely correlated with sperm concentration. The methylation state of DMR0 and of the 3rd CTCF was never affected by the pathological status of sperm samples. This study demonstrates that epigenetic perturbations of the 6th CTCF site of the H19 DMR might be a relevant biomarker for quantitative defects of spermatogenesis in humans. Moreover, we defined a methylation threshold sustaining the classification of patients in two groups, unmethylated and methylated. Using this new classification of patients, the observed intrinsic imprinting defects of spermatozoa appear not to impair significantly the outcome of assisted reproductive technologies.
PMCID: PMC2987171  PMID: 19584898
genomic imprinting; IGF2-H19 locus; methylation; pyrosequencing; spermatozoa; assisted reproductive technologies (ART)
12.  Sex- and Diet-Specific Changes of Imprinted Gene Expression and DNA Methylation in Mouse Placenta under a High-Fat Diet 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e14398.
Changes in imprinted gene dosage in the placenta may compromise the prenatal control of nutritional resources. Indeed monoallelic behaviour and sensitivity to changes in regional epigenetic state render imprinted genes both vulnerable and adaptable.
Methods and Findings
We investigated whether a high-fat diet (HFD) during pregnancy modified the expression of imprinted genes and local and global DNA methylation patterns in the placenta. Pregnant mice were fed a HFD or a control diet (CD) during the first 15 days of gestation. We compared gene expression patterns in total placenta homogenates, for male and female offspring, by the RT-qPCR analysis of 20 imprinted genes. Sexual dimorphism and sensitivity to diet were observed for nine genes from four clusters on chromosomes 6, 7, 12 and 17. As assessed by in situ hybridization, these changes were not due to variation in the proportions of the placental layers. Bisulphite-sequencing analysis of 30 CpGs within the differentially methylated region (DMR) of the chromosome 17 cluster revealed sex- and diet-specific differential methylation of individual CpGs in two conspicuous subregions. Bioinformatic analysis suggested that these differentially methylated CpGs might lie within recognition elements or binding sites for transcription factors or factors involved in chromatin remodelling. Placental global DNA methylation, as assessed by the LUMA technique, was also sexually dimorphic on the CD, with lower methylation levels in male than in female placentae. The HFD led to global DNA hypomethylation only in female placenta. Bisulphite pyrosequencing showed that neither B1 nor LINE repetitive elements could account for these differences in DNA methylation.
A HFD during gestation triggers sex-specific epigenetic alterations within CpG and throughout the genome, together with the deregulation of clusters of imprinted genes important in the control of many cellular, metabolic and physiological functions potentially involved in adaptation and/or evolution. These findings highlight the importance of studying both sexes in epidemiological protocols and dietary interventions.
PMCID: PMC3006175  PMID: 21200436
13.  Identification of regions correlating MGMT promoter methylation and gene expression in glioblastomas 
Neuro-Oncology  2009;11(4):348-356.
The O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase gene (MGMT) is methylated in several cancers, including gliomas. However, the functional role of cysteine-phosphate-guanine (CpG) island (CGI) methylation in MGMT silencing is still controversial. The aim of this study was to investigate whether MGMT CGI methylation correlates inversely with RNA expression of MGMT in glioblastomas and to determine the CpG region whose methylation best reflects the level of expression. The methylation level of CpG sites that are potentially related to expression was investigated in 54 glioblastomas by pyrosequencing, a highly quantitative method, and analyzed with respect to their MGMT mRNA expression status. Three groups of patients were identified according to the methylation pattern of all 52 analyzed CpG sites. Overall, an 85% rate of concordance was observed between methylation and expression (p < 0.0001). When analyzing each CpG separately, six CpG sites were highly correlated with expression (p < 0.0001), and two CpG regions could be used as surrogate markers for RNA expression in 81.5% of the patients. This study indicates that there is good statistical agreement between MGMT methylation and expression, and that some CpG regions better reflect MGMT expression than do others. However, if transcriptional repression is the key mechanism in explaining the higher chemosensitivity of MGMT-methylated tumors, a substantial rate of discordance should lead clinicians to be cautious when deciding on a therapeutic strategy based on MGMT methylation status alone.
PMCID: PMC2743215  PMID: 19224763
CpG island methylation; expression; glioblastomas; MGMT
14.  DNA methylation profiling in doxorubicin treated primary locally advanced breast tumours identifies novel genes associated with survival and treatment response 
Molecular Cancer  2010;9:68.
Breast cancer is the most frequent cancer in women and consists of a heterogeneous collection of diseases with distinct histopathological, genetic and epigenetic characteristics. In this study, we aimed to identify DNA methylation based biomarkers to distinguish patients with locally advanced breast cancer who may benefit from neoadjuvant doxorubicin treatment.
We investigated quantitatively the methylation patterns in the promoter regions of 14 genes (ABCB1, ATM, BRCA1, CDH3, CDKN2A, CXCR4, ESR1, FBXW7, FOXC1, GSTP1, IGF2, HMLH1, PPP2R2B, and PTEN) in 75 well-described pre-treatment samples from locally advanced breast cancer and correlated the results to the available clinical and molecular parameters. Six normal breast tissues were used as controls and 163 unselected breast cancer cases were used to validate associations with histopathological and clinical parameters.
Aberrant methylation was detected in 9 out of the 14 genes including the discovery of methylation at the FOXC1 promoter. Absence of methylation at the ABCB1 promoter correlated with progressive disease during doxorubicin treatment. Most importantly, the DNA methylation status at the promoters of GSTP1, FOXC1 and ABCB1 correlated with survival, whereby the combination of methylated genes improved the subdivision with respect to the survival of the patients. In multivariate analysis GSTP1 and FOXC1 methylation status proved to be independent prognostic markers associated with survival.
Quantitative DNA methylation profiling is a powerful tool to identify molecular changes associated with specific phenotypes. Methylation at the ABCB1 or GSTP1 promoter improved overall survival probably due to prolonged availability and activity of the drug in the cell while FOXC1 methylation might be a protective factor against tumour invasiveness. FOXC1 proved to be general prognostic factor, while ABCB1 and GSTP1 might be predictive factors for the response to and efficacy of doxorubicin treatment. Pharmacoepigenetic effects such as the reported associations in this study provide molecular explanations for differential responses to chemotherapy and it might prove valuable to take the methylation status of selected genes into account for patient management and treatment decisions.
PMCID: PMC2861056  PMID: 20338046
15.  Frequent aberrant DNA methylation of ABCB1, FOXC1, PPP2R2B and PTEN in ductal carcinoma in situ and early invasive breast cancer 
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a non-invasive lesion of the breast that is frequently detected by mammography and subsequently removed by surgery. However, it is estimated that about half of the detected lesions would never have progressed into invasive cancer. Identifying DCIS and invasive cancer specific epigenetic lesions and understanding how these epigenetic changes are involved in triggering tumour progression is important for a better understanding of which lesions are at risk of becoming invasive.
Quantitative DNA methylation analysis of ABCB1, CDKN2A/p16INK4a, ESR1, FOXC1, GSTP1, IGF2, MGMT, MLH1, PPP2R2B, PTEN and RASSF1A was performed by pyrosequencing in a series of 27 pure DCIS, 28 small invasive ductal carcinomas (IDCs), 34 IDCs with a DCIS component and 5 normal breast tissue samples. FOXC1, ABCB1, PPP2R2B and PTEN were analyzed in 23 additional normal breast tissue samples. Real-Time PCR expression analysis was performed for FOXC1.
Aberrant DNA methylation was observed in all three diagnosis groups for the following genes: ABCB1, FOXC1, GSTP1, MGMT, MLH1, PPP2R2B, PTEN and RASSF1A. For most of these genes, methylation was already present at the DCIS level with the same frequency as within IDCs. For FOXC1 significant differences in methylation levels were observed between normal breast tissue and invasive tumours (P < 0.001). The average DNA methylation levels were significantly higher in the pure IDCs and IDCs with DCIS compared to pure DCIS (P = 0.007 and P = 0.001, respectively). Real-time PCR analysis of FOXC1 expression from 25 DCIS, 23 IDCs and 28 normal tissue samples showed lower gene expression levels of FOXC1 in both methylated and unmethylated tumours compared to normal tissue (P < 0.001). DNA methylation levels of FOXC1, GSTP1, ABCB1 and RASSF1A were higher in oestrogen receptor (ER) positive vs. ER negative tumours; whereas methylation levels of FOXC1, ABCB1, PPP2R2B and PTEN were lower in tumours with a TP53 mutation.
Quantitative methylation analysis identified ABCB1, FOXC1, PPP2R2B and PTEN as novel genes to be methylated in DCIS. In particular, FOXC1 showed a significant increase in the methylation frequency in invasive tumours. Low FOXC1 gene expression in both methylated and unmethylated DCIS and IDCs indicates that the loss of its expression is an early event during breast cancer progression.
PMCID: PMC2880421  PMID: 20056007
16.  Quantitative analysis of DNA methylation profiles in lung cancer identifies aberrant DNA methylation of specific genes and its association with gender and cancer risk factors 
Cancer research  2009;69(1):243-252.
The global rise in lung cancer burden, together with its poor survival and resistance to classical chemotherapy underscores the need for identification of critical molecular events involved in lung carcinogenesis. Here, we have applied quantitative profiling of DNA methylation states in a panel of five cancer-associated genes (CDH1, CDKN2A, GSTP1, MTHFR and RASSF1A) to a large case-control study of lung cancer. Our analyses revealed a high frequency of aberrant hypermethylation of MTHFR, RASSF1A and CDKN2A in lung tumours as compared to control blood samples, whereas no significant increase in methylation levels of GSTP1 and CDH1 was observed, consistent with the notion that aberrant DNA methylation occurs in a tumour-specific and gene-specific manner. Importantly, we found that tobacco smoking, sex, and alcohol intake had a strong influence on the methylation levels of distinct genes (RASSF1A and MTHFR), whereas folate intake, age and histological subtype had no significant influence on methylation states. We observed a strong association between MTHFR hypermethylation in lung cancer and tobacco smoking, whereas methylation levels of CDH1, CDKN2A, GSTP1 and RASSF1A were not associated with smoking, indicating that tobacco smoke targets specific genes for hypermethylation. We also found that methylation levels in RASSF1A, but not the other genes under study, were influenced by sex, with males showing higher levels of methylation. Together, this study identifies aberrant DNA methylation patterns in lung cancer and thus exemplifies the mechanism by which environmental factors may interact with key genes involved in tumour suppression and contribute to lung cancer.
PMCID: PMC2613548  PMID: 19118009
DNA methylation; lung cancer; risk factors; tobacco; MTHFR
17.  Data integration from two microarray platforms identifies bi-allelic genetic inactivation of RIC8A in a breast cancer cell line 
BMC Medical Genomics  2009;2:26.
Using array comparative genomic hybridization (aCGH), a large number of deleted genomic regions have been identified in human cancers. However, subsequent efforts to identify target genes selected for inactivation in these regions have often been challenging.
We integrated here genome-wide copy number data with gene expression data and non-sense mediated mRNA decay rates in breast cancer cell lines to prioritize gene candidates that are likely to be tumour suppressor genes inactivated by bi-allelic genetic events. The candidates were sequenced to identify potential mutations.
This integrated genomic approach led to the identification of RIC8A at 11p15 as a putative candidate target gene for the genomic deletion in the ZR-75-1 breast cancer cell line. We identified a truncating mutation in this cell line, leading to loss of expression and rapid decay of the transcript. We screened 127 breast cancers for RIC8A mutations, but did not find any pathogenic mutations. No promoter hypermethylation in these tumours was detected either. However, analysis of gene expression data from breast tumours identified a small group of aggressive tumours that displayed low levels of RIC8A transcripts. qRT-PCR analysis of 38 breast tumours showed a strong association between low RIC8A expression and the presence of TP53 mutations (P = 0.006).
We demonstrate a data integration strategy leading to the identification of RIC8A as a gene undergoing a classical double-hit genetic inactivation in a breast cancer cell line, as well as in vivo evidence of loss of RIC8A expression in a subgroup of aggressive TP53 mutant breast cancers.
PMCID: PMC2685142  PMID: 19432969
18.  Non-random, individual-specific methylation profiles are present at the sixth CTCF binding site in the human H19/IGF2 imprinting control region 
Nucleic Acids Research  2006;34(19):5438-5448.
Expression of imprinted genes is classically associated with differential methylation of specific CpG-rich DNA regions (DMRs). The H19/IGF2 locus is considered a paradigm for epigenetic regulation. In mice, as in humans, the essential H19 DMR—target of the CTCF insulator—is located between the two genes. Here, we performed a pyrosequencing-based quantitative analysis of its CpG methylation in normal human tissues. The quantitative analysis of the methylation level in the H19 DMR revealed three unexpected discrete, individual-specific methylation states. This epigenetic polymorphism was confined to the sixth CTCF binding site while a unique median-methylated profile was found at the third CTCF binding site as well as in the H19 promoter. Monoallelic expression of H19 and IGF2 was maintained independently of the methylation status at the sixth CTCF binding site and the IGF2 DMR2 displayed a median-methylated profile in all individuals and tissues analyzed. Interestingly, the methylation profile was genetically transmitted. Transgenerational inheritance of the H19 methylation profile was compatible with a simple model involving one gene with three alleles. The existence of three individual-specific epigenotypes in the H19 DMR in a non-pathological situation means it is important to reconsider the diagnostic value and functional importance of the sixth CTCF binding site.
PMCID: PMC1636469  PMID: 17012269
19.  Analysis and accurate quantification of CpG methylation by MALDI mass spectrometry 
Nucleic Acids Research  2003;31(9):e50.
As the DNA sequence of the human genome is now nearly finished, the main task of genome research is to elucidate gene function and regulation. DNA methylation is of particular importance for gene regulation and is strongly implicated in the development of cancer. Even minor changes in the degree of methylation can have severe consequences. An accurate quantification of the methylation status at any given position of the genome is a powerful diagnostic indicator. Here we present the first assay for the analysis and precise quantification of methylation on CpG positions in simplex and multiplex reactions based on matrix-assisted laser desorption/ ionisation mass spectrometry detection. Calibration curves for CpGs in two genes were established and an algorithm was developed to account for systematic fluctuations. Regression analysis gave R2 ≥ 0.99 and standard deviation around 2% for the different positions. The limit of detection was ∼5% for the minor isomer. Calibrations showed no significant differences when carried out as simplex or multiplex analyses. All variable parameters were thoroughly investigated, several paraffin-embedded tissue biopsies were analysed and results were verified by established methods like analysis of cloned material. Mass spectrometric results were also compared to chip hybridisation.
PMCID: PMC154238  PMID: 12711695
20.  Molecular haplotyping at high throughput 
Nucleic Acids Research  2002;30(19):e96.
Reconstruction of haplotypes, or the allelic phase, of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) is a key component of studies aimed at the identification and dissection of genetic factors involved in complex genetic traits. In humans, this often involves investigation of SNPs in case/control or other cohorts in which the haplotypes can only be partially inferred from genotypes by statistical approaches with resulting loss of power. Moreover, alternative statistical methodologies can lead to different evaluations of the most probable haplotypes present, and different haplotype frequency estimates when data are ambiguous. Given the cost and complexity of SNP studies, a robust and easy-to-use molecular technique that allows haplotypes to be determined directly from individual DNA samples would have wide applicability. Here, we present a reliable, automated and high-throughput method for molecular haplotyping in 2 kb, and potentially longer, sequence segments that is based on the physical determination of the phase of SNP alleles on either of the individual paternal haploids. We demonstrate that molecular haplotyping with this technique is not more complicated than SNP genotyping when implemented by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation mass spectrometry, and we also show that the method can be applied using other DNA variation detection platforms. Molecular haplotyping is illustrated on the well-described β2-adrenergic receptor gene.
PMCID: PMC140556  PMID: 12364613
21.  Differential DNA methylation analysis of breast cancer reveals the impact of immune signaling in radiation therapy 
Radiotherapy (RT) is a central treatment modality for breast cancer patients. The purpose of our study was to investigate the DNA methylation changes in tumors following RT, and to identify epigenetic markers predicting treatment outcome. Paired biopsies from patients with inoperable breast cancer were collected both before irradiation (n = 20) and after receiving 10–24 Gray (Gy) (n = 19). DNA methylation analysis was performed by using Illumina Infinium 27K arrays. Fourteen genes were selected for technical validation by pyrosequencing. Eighty-two differentially methylated genes were identified in irradiated (n = 11) versus nonirradiated (n = 19) samples (false discovery rate, FDR = 1.1%). Methylation levels in pathways belonging to the immune system were most altered after RT. Based on methylation levels before irradiation, a panel of five genes (H2AFY, CTSA, LTC4S, IL5RA and RB1) were significantly associated with clinical response (p = 0.041). Furthermore, the degree of methylation changes for 2,516 probes correlated with the given radiation dose. Within the 2,516 probes, an enrichment for pathways involved in cellular immune response, proliferation and apoptosis was identified (FDR < 5%). Here, we observed clear differences in methylation levels induced by radiation, some associated with response to treatment. Our study adds knowledge on the molecular mechanisms behind radiation response.
PMCID: PMC4298788  PMID: 24658971
irradiation; immune response; methylation; breast cancer; dose dependent
22.  DNA Methylation Profiling of the Human Major Histocompatibility Complex: A Pilot Study for the Human Epigenome Project 
PLoS Biology  2004;2(12):e405.
The Human Epigenome Project aims to identify, catalogue, and interpret genome-wide DNA methylation phenomena. Occurring naturally on cytosine bases at cytosine–guanine dinucleotides, DNA methylation is intimately involved in diverse biological processes and the aetiology of many diseases. Differentially methylated cytosines give rise to distinct profiles, thought to be specific for gene activity, tissue type, and disease state. The identification of such methylation variable positions will significantly improve our understanding of genome biology and our ability to diagnose disease. Here, we report the results of the pilot study for the Human Epigenome Project entailing the methylation analysis of the human major histocompatibility complex. This study involved the development of an integrated pipeline for high-throughput methylation analysis using bisulphite DNA sequencing, discovery of methylation variable positions, epigenotyping by matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionisation mass spectrometry, and development of an integrated public database available at Our analysis of DNA methylation levels within the major histocompatibility complex, including regulatory exonic and intronic regions associated with 90 genes in multiple tissues and individuals, reveals a bimodal distribution of methylation profiles (i.e., the vast majority of the analysed regions were either hypo- or hypermethylated), tissue specificity, inter-individual variation, and correlation with independent gene expression data.
DNA is frequently modified by methylation, which can affect its function. The Human Epigenome Project aims to identify, catalog, and interpret DNA methylation throughout the genome
PMCID: PMC529316  PMID: 15550986

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