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Int J Cancer. 2010 Nov 1;127(9):2095-105. doi: 10.1002/ijc.25225.

Characteristic methylation profile in CpG island methylator phenotype-negative distal colorectal cancers.

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Division of Molecular Oncology, Aichi Cancer Center Research Institute, Chikusa-Ku, Nagoya 464-8681, Japan.


Aberrant DNA methylation is involved in colon carcinogenesis. Although the CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP) is defined as a subset of colorectal cancers (CRCs) with remarkably high levels of DNA methylation, it is not known whether epigenetic processes are also involved in CIMP-negative tumors. We analyzed the DNA methylation profiles of 94 CRCs and their corresponding normal-appearing colonic mucosa with 11 different markers, including the five classical CIMP markers. The CIMP markers were frequently methylated in proximal CRCs (p < 0.01); however, RASSF1A methylation levels were significantly higher in distal CRCs, the majority of which are CIMP-negative (p < 0.05). Similarly, methylation levels of RASSF1A and SFRP1 in the normal-appearing mucosae of distal CRC cases were significantly higher than those in the proximal CRC cases (p < 0.05). They were also positively correlated with age (RASSF1A, p < 0.01; SFRP1, p < 0.01). Microarray-based genome-wide DNA methylation analysis of 18 CRCs revealed that 168 genes and 720 genes were preferentially methylated in CIMP-negative distal CRCs and CIMP-positive CRCs, respectively. Interestingly, more than half of the hypermethylated genes in CIMP-negative distal CRCs were also methylated in the normal-appearing mucosae, indicating that hypermethylation in CIMP-negative distal CRCs is more closely associated with age-related methylation. By contrast, more than 60% of the hypermethylated genes in CIMP-positive proximal CRCs were cancer specific (p < 0.01). These data altogether suggest that CpG island promoters appear to be methylated in different ways depending on location, a finding which may imply the presence of different mechanisms for the acquisition of epigenetic changes during colon tumorigenesis.

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