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Clin Epigenetics. 2011 Apr;2(1):1-5. doi: 10.1007/s13148-010-0013-3. Epub 2010 Nov 24.

Association between hMLH1 hypermethylation and JC virus (JCV) infection in human colorectal cancer (CRC).


Incorporation of viral DNA may interfere with the normal sequence of human DNA bases on the genetic level or cause secondary epigenetic changes such as gene promoter methylation or histone acetylation. Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second leading cause of cancer mortality in the USA. Chromosomal instability (CIN) was established as the key mechanism in cancer development. Later, it was found that CRC results not only from the progressive accumulation of genetic alterations but also from epigenetic changes. JC virus (JCV) is a candidate etiologic factor in sporadic CRC. It may act by stabilizing β-catenin, facilitating its entrance to the cell nucleus, initialing proliferation and cancer development. Diploid CRC cell lines transfected with JCV-containing plasmids developed CIN. This result provides direct experimental evidence for the ability of JCV T-Ag to induce CIN in the genome of colonic epithelial cells. The association of CRC hMLH1 methylation and tumor positivity for JCV was recently documented. JC virus T-Ag DNA sequences were found in 77% of CRCs and are associated with promoter methylation of multiple genes. hMLH1 was methylated in 25 out of 80 CRC patients positive for T-Ag (31%) in comparison with only one out of 11 T-Ag negative cases (9%). Thus, JCV can mediate both CIN and aberrant methylation in CRC. Like other viruses, chronic infection with JCV may induce CRC by different mechanisms which should be further investigated. Thus, gene promoter methylation induced by JCV may be an important process in CRC and the polyp-carcinoma sequence.

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