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Lab Invest. 2001 Jan;81(1):77-82.

Promoter hypermethylation of the RB1 gene in glioblastomas.

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International Agency for Research on Cancer, Lyon, France.


Loss of expression of the retinoblastoma gene (RB1) has been shown to occur in up to 25% of glioblastomas (WHO Grade IV). To elucidate the underlying mechanism, we assessed RB1 promoter hypermethylation using methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction and RB1 expression by immunohistochemistry in 35 primary (de novo) glioblastomas and in 21 secondary glioblastomas that had progressed from low-grade diffuse astrocytoma (WHO Grade II) or anaplastic astrocytoma (WHO Grade III). Promoter hypermethylation was significantly more frequent in secondary (9 of 21, 43%) than in primary glioblastomas (5 of 35, 14%; p = 0.0258). There was a clear correlation between loss of RB1 expression and promoter hypermethylation. In the majority of glioblastomas with loss of RB1 expression, there was promoter hypermethylation (11 of 13, 85%), whereas 93% of tumors with RB1 expression had a normal RB1 gene status (p < 0.0001). In three glioblastomas, areas with and without RB1 expression were microdissected; promoter hypermethylation was detected only in areas lacking RB1 expression. In patients with multiple biopsies, methylation of the RB1 promoter was not detectable in the less malignant precursor lesions, ie, low-grade diffuse and anaplastic astrocytoma. These results indicate that promoter hypermethylation is a late event during astrocytoma progression and is the major mechanism underlying loss of RB1 expression in glioblastomas.

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