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Mol Cancer Res. 2005 Nov;3(11):617-26.

Both hypomethylation and hypermethylation in a 0.2-kb region of a DNA repeat in cancer.

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  • 1Human Genetics Program, Department of Biochemistry, and Tulane Cancer Center, Tulane Medical School, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA.


NBL2 is a tandem 1.4-kb DNA repeat, whose hypomethylation in hepatocellular carcinomas was shown previously to be an independent predictor of disease progression. Here, we examined methylation of all cytosine residues in a 0.2-kb subregion of NBL2 in ovarian carcinomas, Wilms' tumors, and diverse control tissues by hairpin-bisulfite PCR. This new genomic sequencing method detects 5-methylcytosine on covalently linked complementary strands of a DNA fragment. All DNA clones from normal somatic tissues displayed symmetrical methylation at seven CpG positions and no methylation or only hemimethylation at two others. Unexpectedly, 56% of cancer DNA clones had decreased methylation at some normally methylated CpG sites as well as increased methylation at one or both of the normally unmethylated sites. All 146 DNA clones from 10 cancers could be distinguished from all 91 somatic control clones by assessing methylation changes at three of these CpG sites. The special involvement of DNA methyltransferase 3B in NBL2 methylation was indicated by analysis of cells from immunodeficiency, centromeric region instability, and facial anomalies syndrome patients who have mutations in the gene encoding DNA methyltransferase 3B. Blot hybridization of 33 cancer DNAs digested with CpG methylation-sensitive enzymes confirmed that NBL2 arrays are unusually susceptible to cancer-linked hypermethylation and hypomethylation, consistent with our novel genomic sequencing findings. The combined Southern blot and genomic sequencing data indicate that some of the cancer-linked alterations in CpG methylation are occurring with considerable sequence specificity. NBL2 is an attractive candidate for an epigenetic cancer marker and for elucidating the nature of epigenetic changes in cancer.

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