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J Pathol. 2006 Nov;210(3):344-50.

Relationship between point gene mutation, chromosomal abnormality, and tumour suppressor gene methylation status in colorectal adenomas.

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Department of Human Genetics, Ninewells Hospital and University of Dundee, Dundee, UK.


Epigenetic mechanisms in carcinogenesis may have a significant role in the development of colorectal cancer. To investigate this phenomenon in early-stage disease, promoter methylation status in the tumour suppressor genes APC, MGMT, hMLH1, P14/P14ARF, and CDKN2A/P16 was investigated in 78 colorectal adenomas. These had previously been characterized for mutations of APC, KRAS, and TP53 genes and for chromosomal abnormality by comparative genomic hybridization (CGH). APC hypermethylation was seen in 52 tumours (66.7%). APC showed either methylation or mutation in 66 lesions (84.6%), but these events were not statistically associated. MGMT methylation was detected in 39 cases (50%). Adenomas with this abnormality showed a significantly lower number of chromosomal changes by CGH (p < 0.02), confirming that DNA repair defect of this type is associated with a lower level of chromosomal instability. An hMLH1 methylation defect was seen in only one adenoma (1.3%), from a patient who had a synchronous cancer showing the same defect. Methylation of P14 (P14ARF) was seen in 31 adenomas (39.7%) and CDKN2A (P16) abnormality in 25 (32.1%). DNA methylation at two or more loci was seen in 46 tumours (59%), while 11 lesions (14.1%) showed no evidence of hypermethylation at any of the loci studied. Methylation at any or all of MGMT, P14 or P16 was significantly associated with APC methylation (p = 0.01). Those neoplasms with more than two methylated genes showed significantly fewer chromosomal abnormalities than adenomas with one or no methylated loci (p < 0.001). There was no association between specific individual chromosomal abnormalities, APC, KRAS or TP53 mutations and any pattern of methylation abnormality. We conclude that methylation abnormality is very common in pre-invasive colorectal neoplasia, and that high level methylation is associated with low level chromosomal instability.

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