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Mutat Res. 2009 Oct 2;669(1-2):56-62. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2009.05.003. Epub 2009 May 13.

Role of DNA damage and alterations in cytosine DNA methylation in rat liver carcinogenesis induced by a methyl-deficient diet.

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Division of Biochemical Toxicology, National Center for Toxicological Research, Jefferson, AR 72079, USA.


Currently, cancer is recognized as a disease provoked by both genetic and epigenetic events. However, the significance of early genetic and epigenetic alterations with respect to carcinogenic process in general and to liver carcinogenesis in particular remains unexplored. A lack of knowledge regarding how specific alterations during early preneoplasia may be mechanistically related to tumor formation creates a major gap in understanding the role of these genetic and epigenetic abnormalities in carcinogenesis. In the present study we investigated the contribution of DNA damage and epigenetic alterations to liver carcinogenesis induced by a methyl-deficient diet. Feeding Fisher 344 rats a methyl-deficient diet for 9 weeks resulted in DNA damage and aberrant DNA methylation. This was evidenced by an early up-regulation of the base excision DNA repair genes, accumulation of 8-oxodeoxyguanosine and 3'OH-end strand breaks in DNA, pronounced global loss of DNA methylation, and hypermethylation of CpG islands in the livers of methyl-deficient rats. These abnormalities were completely restored in the livers of rats exposed to methyl-deficiency for 9 weeks after removal of the methyl-deficient diet and re-feeding a methyl-sufficient diet. However, when rats were fed a methyl-deficient diet for 18 week and then given a methyl-sufficient diet, only DNA lesions were repaired. The methyl-sufficient diet failed to restore completely the altered DNA methylation status and prevent the progression of liver carcinogenesis. These results suggest that stable alterations in DNA methylation are a factor that promotes the progression of liver carcinogenesis. Additionally, the results indicate that epigenetic changes may be more reliable markers than DNA lesions of the carcinogenic process and carcinogen exposure.

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