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Mutat Res. 2004 Oct 4;554(1-2):23-32.

Hypermethylation of the DNA repair gene MGMT: association with TP53 G:C to A:T transitions in a series of 469 nervous system tumors.

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  • 1Departamento de Cirugía Experimental, Laboratorio de Oncogenetica Molecular, Hospital Universitario La Paz, Paseo Castellana 261, 28046 Madrid, Spain.


O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) plays a major role in repairing DNA damage from alkylating agents. By removing alkyl groups from the O6-position in guanine, MGMT can prevent G:C to A:T transition mutations, a type of variation frequently involving TP53 mutations in brain tumors. Promoter hypermethylation of CpG islands in tumor-related genes can lead to their transcriptional inactivation, and this epigenetic mechanism has been shown to participate in MGMT silencing in some cancers, including those affecting the nervous system. Accordingly, a link between both genetic and epigenetic anomalies may exist in these neoplasms. To determine the relevance of defective MGMT function due to aberrant methylation in relation to the presence of TP53 mutations, we studied 469 nervous system tumors (including all major histological subtypes) for MGMT promoter methylation and TP53 mutations at exons 5-8. Overall, aberrant methylation occurred in 38% of the samples (180/469), with values higher than 50% in the more malignant forms such as glioblastomas and anaplastic gliomas including those with astrocytic, oligodendroglial and ependymal differentiation. In contrast, the non-glial tumors displayed an overall aberrant MGMT promoter methylation of 26%, even though this group includes highly malignant tumors such as neuroblastomas, medulloblastomas and brain metastases. Overall, TP53 mutations were found in 25% of the methylated MGMT tumors (45/180), whereas only 10% of the unmethylated MGMT tumors (30/289) showed TP53 changes (P < 0.001). G:C to A:T changes occurred at CpG sites in 9% of methylated tumors, and in 0.7% of the unmethylated samples. This type of transition at non-CpG dinucleotides was also more frequent in the tumors with aberrant MGMT methylation (5%) than the unmethylated tumors (0.7%). These data suggest that MGMT silencing as a result of promoter hypermethylation may lead to G:C to A:T transition mutations in the TP53 gene of some histological nervous system tumor subtypes.

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