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Cancer Sci. 2004 Jan;95(1):58-64.

Frequent hypomethylation in multiple promoter CpG islands is associated with global hypomethylation, but not with frequent promoter hypermethylation.

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Carcinogenesis Division and Cancer Prevention Basic Research Project, National Cancer Center Research Institute, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0045, Japan.


Hypomethylation of the global genome, considered to be composed mainly of repetitive sequences, is consistently observed in cancers, and aberrant hypo- and hypermethylation of CpG islands (CGIs) in promoter regions are also observed. Since methylation alterations in unique promoter sequences and in other genomic regions have distinct consequences, we analyzed the relationship between the global hypomethylation and the hypomethylation of unique promoter CGIs using human gastric cancers. Seven of ten gastric cancer cell lines showed marked decreases in 5-methylcytosine content, which correlated with hypomethylation of the LINE1 repetitive sequence. Six of the seven cell lines showed hypomethylation in five or all of the six normally methylated CGIs in promoter regions of six genes, and this was associated with induction of aberrant expression. The remaining three cell lines without global hypomethylation showed promoter hypomethylation in one or none of the six CGIs. Frequent promoter hypomethylation, however, did not correlate with frequent promoter hypermethylation. In primary gastric cancers too, global hypomethylation was associated with hypomethylation of LINE1 repetitive sequence and promoter hypomethylation. Of 93 gastric cancers, 33 cancers with frequent promoter hypomethylation and 27 cancers with frequent promoter hypermethylation constituted different groups. These findings represent experimental evidence that frequent hypomethylation of normally methylated promoter CGIs is associated with global hypomethylation, and that these hypomethylations occur independently of frequent promoter CGI hypermethylation.

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