Biological significance of 5-hydroxymethylcytosine in oral epithelial dysplasia and oral squamous cell carcinoma

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The aim of this study was to determine the levels of 5-hydroxylmethylcytosine (5-hmC) in oral epithelial dysplasia (OED) and oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) compared with those in benign, reactive inflammatory lesions and to explore whether DNA hydroxymethylation may serve as a novel biomarker for early diagnosis and prognosis of OSCC.

Study Design.

The study included normal mucosa from uninvolved margins of 9 fibromas, 10 oral lichen planus, 15 OED, and 23 OSCC. Cultured human keratinocyte lines from benign oral mucosa, OED, and OSCC, as well as a murine model in which OSCC was induced with 4-nitroquinoline-1-oxide, were also evaluated.


Progressive loss of 5-hmC from benign oral mucosal lesions to OED and OSCC was documented in patient samples. Decreased levels in 5-hmC that typify OED and OSCC were also detectable in human cell lines. Moreover, we characterized similar alterations in 5-hmC in an animal model of OED/OSCC.


This study demonstrated that 5-hmC distinguishes OED and OSCC from benign lesions with high sensitivity and specificity. Consequently, loss of 5-hmC may be useful for the diagnosis of OED with potential implications for therapy of OSCC.

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