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Cancer Res. 2004 Mar 15;64(6):2000-6.

Hypermethylation of the 5' CpG island of the FHIT gene is associated with hyperdiploid and translocation-negative subtypes of pediatric leukemia.

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  • 1Laboratory for Molecular Epidemiology, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California at San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-0560, USA.


The human FHIT (fragile histidine triad) gene is a putative tumor suppressor gene located at chromosome region 3p14.2. Previous studies have shown that loss of heterozygosity, homozygous deletions, and abnormal expression of the FHIT gene are involved in several types of human malignancies. A CpG island is present in the 5' promoter region of the FHIT gene, and methylation in this region correlates with loss of FHIT expression. To test whether aberrant methylation of the FHIT gene may play a role in pediatric leukemia, we assessed the FHIT methylation status of 10 leukemia cell lines and 190 incident population-based cases of childhood acute lymphocytic and myeloid leukemias using methylation-specific PCR. Conventional and fluorescence in situ hybridization cytogenetic data were also collected to examine aneuploidy, t(12, 21), and other chromosomal rearrangements. Four of 10 leukemia cell lines (40%) and 52 of 190 (27.4%) bone marrows from childhood leukemia patients demonstrated hypermethylation of the promoter region of FHIT. Gene expression analyses and 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine treatment showed that promoter hypermethylation correlated with FHIT inactivation. Among primary leukemias, hypermethylation of FHIT was strongly correlated with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) histology (P = 0.008), high hyperdiploid (P < 0.0001), and translocation-negative (P < 0.0001) categories. Hyperdiploid B-cell ALLs were 23-fold more likely to be FHIT methylated compared with B-cell ALL harboring TEL-AML translocations. FHIT methylation was associated with high WBC counts at diagnosis, a known prognostic indicator. These results suggest that hypermethylation of the promoter region CpG island of the FHIT gene is a common event and may play an important role in the etiology and pathophysiology of specific cytogenetic subtypes of childhood ALL.

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