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BJU Int. 2007 Apr;99(4):908-15.

Epigenetic events, remodelling enzymes and their relationship to chromatin organization in prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia and prostatic adenocarcinoma.

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Biomedical Imaging and Informatics Research Group, Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology, The Queen's University of Belfast, Belfast, UK.



To explore the nuclear chromatin phenotype, overall epigenetic mechanisms, chromatin remodelling enzymes and their role as diagnostic biomarkers in prostate lesions, using high-resolution computerized quantitative digital image analysis (DIA).


A tissue microarray (TMA) was constructed using paraffin wax-embedded prostatic tissues from 78 patients, containing 30 cores of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), 10 of low-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (LGPIN), 38 of prostate adenocarcinoma, 20 of BPH tissue excised at 0.6-1 mm from LGPIN lesions, and 10 of BPH prostatic tissues obtained 0.6-1 mm from high-grade PIN (HGPIN) lesions. Chromatin phenotype was assessed on haematoxylin-stained sections using high-resolution texture analysis. For quantitative immunohistochemistry, antibodies raised against acetylated histone H3 lysine 9 (AcH3K9), 5'methylcytidine (5MeC) and the chromatin remodelling ATPase ISWI (SNF2H and SNF2L) were used. The immunodensity was measured using DIA to determine the epigenetic profile of the cases. At least 60 nuclei were measured from each case.


There were many statistically significant differences in staining intensity and nuclear distribution patterns in chromatin phenotype and immunostaining (p </= 0.001). These changes allowed the differentiation between the various pathological subgroups with a classification accuracy of 76-100% using chromatin phenotype or immunostaining measuring epigenetic and chromatin remodelling changes (5MeC, AcH3K9 and ISWI). In PIN lesions, there was a high chromatin content with DNA-hypermethylation, while in prostatic adenocarcinoma there was a lower chromatin content with DNA-hypomethylation and H3K9-hypoacetylation. There was significantly more ISWI protein in neoplastic tissues. There were malignancy-associated changes (MAC) in chromatin phenotype and overall epigenetic events in BPH tissues adjacent to PIN lesions.


The present study confirms the ability of high-resolution computerized digital imaging of nuclear texture features to detect changes in chromatin phenotype, epigenetic events and the presence of chromatin remodelling, factors that can be used to distinguish between different prostatic pathologies, i.e. BPH, LGPIN, HGPIN and prostate adenocarcinoma, and further allow the detection of MAC near PIN lesions. These results provide a base for future diagnostic applications of DIA combined with immunohistochemistry. Our experiments underscore the importance of epigenetic mechanisms during carcinogenesis. Further studies are needed to elucidate the complex interplay between chromatin structure, its modifications and the progression of prostate cancer.

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