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Virology. 2009 Aug 1;390(2):261-7. doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2009.05.006. Epub 2009 Jun 4.

Laser capture microdissection of cervical human papillomavirus infections: copy number of the virus in cancerous and normal tissue and heterogeneous DNA methylation.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697, USA.


Research on the pathogenicity of human papillomaviruses (HPVs) during cervical carcinogenesis often relies on the study of homogenized tissue or cultured cells. This approach does not detect molecular heterogeneities within the infected tissue. It is desirable to understand molecular properties in specific histological contexts. We asked whether laser capture microdissection (LCM) of archival cervical tumors in combination with real-time polymerase chain reaction and bisulfite sequencing permits (i) sensitive DNA diagnosis of small clusters of formalin-fixed cells, (ii) quantification of HPV DNA in neoplastic and normal cells, and (iii) analysis of HPV DNA methylation, a marker of tumor progression. We analyzed 26 tumors containing HPV-16 or 18. We prepared DNA from LCM dissected thin sections of 100 to 2000 cells, and analyzed aliquots corresponding to between nine and 70 cells. We detected nine to 630 HPV-16 genome copies and one to 111 HPV-18 genome copies per tumor cell, respectively. In 17 of the 26 samples, HPV DNA existed in histologically normal cells distant from the margins of the tumors, but at much lower concentrations than in the tumor, suggesting that HPVs can infect at low levels without pathogenic changes. Methylation of HPV DNA, a biomarker of integration of the virus into cellular DNA, could be measured only in few samples due to limited sensitivity, and indicated heterogeneous methylation patterns in small clusters of cancerous and normal cells. LCM is powerful to study molecular parameters of cervical HPV infections like copy number, latency and epigenetics.

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