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Clin Epigenetics. 2013 May 2;5(1):7. doi: 10.1186/1868-7083-5-7.

DNMT1 genetic polymorphisms affect breast cancer risk in the central European Caucasian population.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Immunotherapy and Gene Therapy, José Carreras Research Center, Saarland University Medical Center, Homburg/Saar D-66421, Germany. mahlknecht@gmx.de.



DNA methylation of CpG islands within the promoter region of genes is an epigenetic modification with an important role in the development of cancer and it is typically mediated by DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs). In cancer cells, global hypomethylation of the genome as a whole and regional hypermethylation of CpG islands have been reported. Four groups of DNMTs have been identified: DNMT1, DNMT2 (TRDMT1), DNMT3A and DNMT3B. DNMT2 uses the catalytic mechanism of DNMTs, but does in fact methylate RNA. Little is known about the significance of these genes in human breast cancer. In the study presented herein, we analyzed five distinct DNMT single SNPs with regard to potential associations with breast cancer risk.


In this study, we genotyped 221 female Caucasian breast cancer patients and 221 female Caucasian healthy controls, and we used five allele-specific real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) assays. We selected one locus within the DNMT1 gene and two loci within the DNMT3A and DNMT3B genes, respectively. Statistics were calculated using the chi-squared and Fisher's exact tests, and correlated with clinical parameters such as age, diagnosis, histology, TNM stage, hormonal receptor status, human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) status, response to treatment and survival. Statistically significant results were obtained for correlations with the DNMT1 gene.


Five genomic loci within the DNMT1, DNMT3A and DNMT3B genes were assessed. Statistical significance (P = 0.030) was identified for DNMT1 SNP (A201G, rs2228612): six women within the control group were GG homozygous (variant), while this mutation was absent in the breast cancer group.


We conclude that women with the DNMT1 SNP (A201G, rs2228612) GG homozygous genotype (variant) have a lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to heterozygous or wildtype genotypes. To date, alterations within the DNMT1 gene have not been reported to be associated with cancer in the Caucasian population.

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