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Int J Cancer. 2019 Jun 1;144(11):2707-2717. doi: 10.1002/ijc.32006. Epub 2019 Jan 15.

Relationship of DNA methylation to mutational changes and transcriptional organization in fusion-positive and fusion-negative rhabdomyosarcoma.

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Laboratory of Pathology, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD.
Pediatric Oncology Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD.
Genetics Branch, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD.
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA.
Departments of Pediatrics and Pharmacology & Cancer Biology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC.
Greehey Children's Cancer Research Institute, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX.


Our previous study of DNA methylation in the pediatric soft tissue tumor rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) demonstrated that fusion-positive (FP) and fusion-negative (FN) RMS tumors exhibit distinct DNA methylation patterns. To further examine the significance of DNA methylation differences in RMS, we investigated genome-wide DNA methylation profiles in discovery and validation cohorts. Unsupervised analysis of DNA methylation data identified novel distinct subsets associated with the specific fusion subtype in FP RMS and with RAS mutation status in FN RMS. Furthermore, the methylation pattern in normal muscle is most similar to the FN subset with wild-type RAS mutation status. Several biologically relevant genes were identified with methylation and expression differences between the two fusion subtypes of FP RMS or between the RAS wild-type and mutant subsets of FN RMS. Genomic localization studies showed that promoter and intergenic regions were hypomethylated and the 3' untranslated regions were hypermethylated in FP compared to FN tumors. There was also a significant difference in the distribution of PAX3-FOXO1 binding sites between genes with and without differential methylation. Moreover, genes with PAX3-FOXO1 binding sites and promoter hypomethylation exhibited the highest frequency of overexpression in FP tumors. Finally, a comparison of RMS model systems revealed that patient-derived xenografts most closely recapitulate the DNA methylation patterns found in human RMS tumors compared to cell lines and cell line-derived xenografts. In conclusion, these findings highlight the interaction of epigenetic changes with mutational alterations and transcriptional organization in RMS tumors, and contribute to improved molecular categorization of these tumors.


DNA methylation; Rhabdomyosarcoma; expression; fusion protein; xenograft

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