DNA methylation and gene expression profiles show novel regulatory pathways in hepatocellular carcinoma

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Abstract

© 2015 Udali et al. Background: Alcohol is a well-known risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), but the mechanisms underlying the alcohol-related hepatocarcinogenesis are still poorly understood. Alcohol alters the provision of methyl groups within the hepatic one-carbon metabolism, possibly inducing aberrant DNA methylation. Whether specific pathways are epigenetically regulated in alcohol-associated HCC is, however, unknown. The aim of the present study was to investigate the genome-wide promoter DNA methylation and gene expression profiles in non-viral, alcohol-associated HCC. From eight HCC patients undergoing curative surgery, array-based DNA methylation and gene expression data of all annotated genes were analyzed by comparing HCC tissue and homologous cancer-free liver tissue. Results: After merging the DNA methylation with gene expression data, we identified 159 hypermethylated-repressed, 30 hypomethylated-induced, 49 hypermethylated-induced, and 56 hypomethylated-repressed genes. Notably, promoter DNA methylation emerged as a novel regulatory mechanism for the transcriptional repression of genes controlling the retinol metabolism (ADH1A, ADH1B, ADH6, CYP3A43, CYP4A22, RDH16), iron homeostasis (HAMP), one-carbon metabolism (SHMT1), and genes with a putative, newly identified function as tumor suppressors (FAM107A, IGFALS, MT1G, MT1H, RNF180). Conclusions: A genome-wide DNA methylation approach merged with array-based gene expression profiles allowed identifying a number of novel, epigenetically regulated candidate tumor-suppressor genes in alcohol-associated hepatocarcinogenesis. Retinol metabolism genes and SHMT1 are also epigenetically regulated through promoter DNA methylation in alcohol-associated HCC. Due to the reversibility of epigenetic mechanisms by environmental/nutritional factors, these findings may open up to novel interventional strategies for hepatocarcinogenesis prevention in HCC related to alcohol, a modifiable dietary component.

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Udali, S., Guarini, P., Ruzzenente, A., Ferrarini, A., Guglielmi, A., Lotto, V., … Friso, S. (2015). DNA methylation and gene expression profiles show novel regulatory pathways in hepatocellular carcinoma. Clinical Epigenetics, 7(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13148-015-0077-1

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