Published online Jan 7, 2012. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v18.i1.70
Revised: July 11, 2011
Accepted: July 18, 2011
Published online: January 7, 2012
AIM: To explore germline hypermethylation of the tumor suppressor genes MLH1, CDH1 and P16INK4a in suspected cases of hereditary gastric cancer (GC).
METHODS: A group of 140 Chinese GC patients in whom the primary cancer had developed before the age of 60 or who had a familial history of cancer were screened for germline hypermethylation of the MLH1, CDH1 and P16INK4a tumor suppressor genes. Genomic DNA was extracted from peripheral blood leukocytes and modified by sodium bisulfite. The treated DNA was then subjected to bisulfite DNA sequencing for a specific region of the MLH1 promoter. The methylation status of CDH1 or P16INK4a was assayed using methylation-specific PCR. Clonal bisulfite allelic sequencing in positive samples was performed to obtain a comprehensive analysis of the CpG island methylation status of these promoter regions.
RESULTS: Methylation of the MLH1 gene promoter was detected in the peripheral blood DNA of only 1/140 (0.7%) of the GC patient group. However, this methylation pattern was mosaic rather than the allelic pattern which has previously been reported for MLH1 in hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) patients. We found that 10% of the MLH1 alleles in the peripheral blood DNA of this patient were methylated, consistent with 20% of cells having one methylated allele. No germline promoter methylation of the CDH1 or P16INK4a genes was detected.
CONCLUSION: Mosaic germline epimutation of the MLH1 gene is present in suspected hereditary GC patients in China but at a very low level. Germline epimutation of the CDH1 or P16INK4a gene is not a frequent event.