DNA Hypermethylation Profiles in Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Vulva

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Gene silencing through promoter hypermethylation is a growing concept in the development of human cancers. In this study, we examined the contribution of aberrant methylation of promoter regions in methylation-prone tumor suppressors to the pathogenesis of vulvar cancer. Thirteen cell lines from 12 patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the vulva were evaluated for aberrant methylation status and gene copy number alterations, concomitantly, using the methylation-specific multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification assay. Of the 22 tumor suppressor genes examined, aberrant methylation was observed for 9 genes: tumor protein p73 (TP73), fragile histidine triad (FHIT), von Hippel-Lindau (VHL), adenomatosis polyposis coli (APC), estrogen receptor 1 (ESR1), cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 2B (CDKN2B), death-associated protein kinase 1 (DAPK1), glutathione S-transferase pi (GSTP1), and immunoglobin superfamily, member 4 (IGSF4). The most frequently methylated genes included TP73 in 9 of 13 cell lines, and IGSF4, DAPK1, and FHIT in 3 of 13 cell lines. Methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction was performed for TP73 and FHIT to confirm aberrant methylation by methylation-specific multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification. In the context of gene copy number and methylation status, both copies of the TP73 gene were hypermethylated. Loss or decreased mRNA expression of TP73 and IGSF4 by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction confirmed aberrant methylation. Frequent genetic alterations of loss and gain of gene copy number included gain of GSTP1 and multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), and loss of malignant fibrous histiocytoma amplified sequence 1 (MFHAS1) and IGSF4 in over 50% of the squamous cell carcinoma of the vulva cell lines. These findings underscore the contribution of both genetic and epigenetic events to the underlying pathogenesis of squamous cell carcinoma of the vulva.

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