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Epigenetics. 2011 Jun;6(6):777-87. Epub 2011 Jun 1.

Genome-wide methylation and expression differences in HPV(+) and HPV(-) squamous cell carcinoma cell lines are consistent with divergent mechanisms of carcinogenesis.

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Center for Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


Oncogenic human papillomaviruses (HPV) are associated with nearly all cervical cancers and are increasingly important in the etiology of oropharyngeal tumors. HPV-associated head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC) have distinct risk profiles and appreciate a prognostic advantage compared to HPV-negative HNSCC. Promoter hypermethylation is widely recognized as a mechanism in the progression of HNSCC, but the extent to which this mechanism is consistent between HPV(+) and HPV(-) tumors is unknown. To investigate the epigenetic regulation of gene expression in HPV-induced and carcinogen-induced cancers, we examined genome-wide DNA methylation and gene expression in HPV(+) and HPV(-) SCC cell lines. We used two platforms: the Illumina Infinium Methylation BeadArray and tiling arrays, and confirmed illustrative examples with pyrosequencing and quantitative PCR. These analyses indicate that HPV(+) cell lines have higher DNA methylation in genic and LINE-1 regions than HPV(-) cell lines. Differentially methylated loci between HPV(+) and HPV(-) cell lines significantly correlated with HPV-typed HNSCC primary tumor DNA methylation levels. Novel findings include higher promoter methylation of polycomb repressive complex 2 target genes in HPV(+) cells compared to HPV(-) cells and increased expression of DNMT3A in HPV(+) cells. Additionally, CDKN2A and KRT8 were identified as interaction hubs among genes with higher methylation and lower expression in HPV(-) cells. Conversely, RUNX2, IRS-1 and CCNA1 were major hubs with higher methylation and lower expression in HPV(+) cells. Distinct HPV(+) and HPV(-) epigenetic profiles should provide clues to novel targets for development of individualized therapeutic strategies.

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