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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e51531. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051531. Epub 2012 Dec 11.

MLH1 region polymorphisms show a significant association with CpG island shore methylation in a large cohort of healthy individuals.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are the most common form of genetic variation. We previously demonstrated that SNPs (rs1800734, rs749072, and rs13098279) in the MLH1 gene region are associated with MLH1 promoter island methylation, loss of MLH1 protein expression, and microsatellite instability (MSI) in colorectal cancer (CRC) patients. Recent studies have identified less CpG-dense "shore" regions flanking many CpG islands. These shores often exhibit distinct methylation profiles between different tissues and matched normal versus tumor cells of patients. To date, most epigenetic studies have focused on somatic methylation events occurring within solid tumors; less is known of the contributions of peripheral blood cell (PBC) methylation to processes such as aging and tumorigenesis. To address whether MLH1 methylation in PBCs is correlated with tumorigenesis we utilized the Illumina 450 K microarrays to measure methylation in PBC DNA of 846 healthy controls and 252 CRC patients from Ontario, Canada. Analysis of a region of chromosome 3p21 spanning the MLH1 locus in healthy controls revealed that a CpG island shore 1 kb upstream of the MLH1 gene exhibits different methylation profiles when stratified by SNP genotypes (rs1800734, rs749072, and rs13098279). Individuals with wild-type genotypes incur significantly higher PBC shore methylation than heterozygous or homozygous variant carriers (p<1.1×10(-6); ANOVA). This trend is also seen in CRC cases (p<0.096; ANOVA). Shore methylation also decreases significantly with increasing age in cases and controls. This is the first study of its kind to integrate PBC methylation at a CpG island shore with SNP genotype status in CRC cases and controls. These results indicate that CpG island shore methylation in PBCs may be influenced by genotype as well as the normal aging process.

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