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Hum Pathol. 2012 Oct;43(10):1731-8. doi: 10.1016/j.humpath.2011.12.022. Epub 2012 Apr 18.

Clinicopathologic significance of DNA methyltransferase 1, 3a, and 3b overexpression in Tunisian breast cancers.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Farhat-Hached Hospital, Sousse 4000, Tunisia.


DNA methyltransferase 1, 3a, and 3b affect DNA methylation, and it is thought that they play an important role in the malignant transformation of various cancers. The current study was designed to analyze DNA methyltransferase expression by immunohistochemistry in a series of 94 Tunisian sporadic breast carcinomas. Results were correlated to clinicopathologic parameters and promoter methylation status of 8 tumor suppressor genes (BRCA1, BRCA2, RASSFA1, TIMP3, CDH1, P16, RARβ2, and DAPK). Overexpression of DNA methyltransferase 1, 3a, and 3b was detected in 46.8%, 32%, and 44.7% of cases, respectively. A significant correlation was found between DNA methyltransferase 1 overexpression and Scarff-Bloom-Richardson histologic grade III (P = .01). DNA methyltransferase 3a overexpression was significantly associated with menopausal status (P = .01), Scarff-Bloom-Richardson histologic grade III (P = .0001), estrogen (P = .04) and progesterone (P = .007) receptor negativity, and HER2 overexpression (P = .004). However, DNA methyltransferase 3a overexpression was found less frequently in the luminal A intrinsic breast cancer subtype (9.7%) than in luminal B (53%), HER2 (41%), and triple-negative (50%) subtypes (P = .001). DNA methyltransferase 3b overexpression shows significant correlation with promoter hypermethylation of BRCA1 (P = .03) and RASSFA1 (P = .04) and with the hypermethylator phenotype (more than 4 methylated genes, P = .01). These data suggest that overexpression of various DNA methyltransferases might represent a critical event responsible for the epigenetic inactivation of multiple tumor suppressor genes, leading to the development of aggressive forms of sporadic breast cancer.

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