Identification and validation of highly frequent CpG island hypermethylation in colorectal adenomas and carcinomas

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In our study, whole-genome methylation arrays were applied to identify novel genes with tumor specific DNA methylation of promoter CpG islands in pre-malignant and malignant colorectal lesions. Using a combination of Illumina HumanMethylation27 beadchips, Methylation-Sensitive High Resolution Melting (MS-HRM) analysis, and Exon arrays (Affymetrix) the DNA methylation pattern of ˜14,000 genes and their transcript levels were investigated in six normal mucosas, six adenomas and 30 MSI and MSS carcinomas. Sixty eight genes with tumor-specific hypermethylation were identified (p< 0.005). Identified hypermethylated sites were validated in an independent sample set of eight normal mucosas, 12 adenomas, 40 MSS and nine MSI cancer samples. The methylation patterns of 15 selected genes, hypermethylated in adenomas and carcinomas (FLI1,ST6GALNAC5,TWIST1,ADHFE1,JAM2,IRF4,CNRIP1,NRG1andEYA4), in carcinomas only (ABHD9,AOX1andRERG), or in MSI but not MSS carcinomas (RAMP2,DSC3andMLH1) were validated using MS-HRM. Four of these genes (MLH1,AOX1,EYA4andTWIST1) had previously been reported to be hypermethylated in CRC. Eleven genes, not previously known to be affected by CRC specific hypermethylation, were identified and validated. Inverse correlation to gene expression was observed for six of the 15 genes with Spearman correlation coefficients ranging from −0.39 to −0.60. For six of these genes the altered methylation patterns had a profound transcriptional association, indicating that methylation of these genes may play a direct regulatory role. The hypermethylation changes often occurred already in adenomas, indicating that they may be used as biomarkers for early detection of CRC.

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