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Cancer Res. 1999 May 15;59(10):2302-6.

CpG island hypermethylation in human colorectal tumors is not associated with DNA methyltransferase overexpression.

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Department of Surgery, University of Southern California, School of Medicine, Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Los Angeles 90033, USA.

Erratum in

  • Cancer Res 1999 Nov 15;59(22):5860.


The molecular basis of aberrant hypermethylation of CpG islands observed in a subset of human colorectal tumors is unknown. One potential mechanism is the up-regulation of DNA (cytosine-5)-methyltransferases. Recently, two new mammalian DNA methyltransferase genes have been identified, which are referred to as DNMT3A and DNMT3B. The encoded proteins differ from the predominant mammalian DNA methyltransferase DNMT1 in that they have a substantially higher ratio of de novo to maintenance methyltransferase activity. We have used a highly quantitative 5' nuclease fluorogenic reverse transcription-PCR method (TaqMan) to analyze the expression of all three DNA methyltransferase genes in 25 individual colorectal adenocarcinoma specimens and matched normal mucosa samples. In addition, we examined the methylation patterns of four CpG islands [APC, ESR1 (estrogen receptor), CDKN2A (p16), and MLH1] to determine whether individual tumors show a positive correlation between the level of DNA methyltransferase expression and the frequency of CpG island hypermethylation. All three methyltransferases appear to be up-regulated in tumors when RNA levels are normalized using either ACTB (beta-actin) or POLR2A (RNA pol II large subunit), but not when RNA levels are normalized with proliferation-associated genes, such as H4F2 (histone H4) or PCNA. The frequency or extent of CpG island hypermethylation in individual tumors did not correlate with the expression of any of the three DNA methyltransferases. Our results suggest that deregulation of DNA methyltransferase gene expression does not play a role in establishing tumor-specific abnormal DNA methylation patterns in human colorectal cancer.

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