Journal Article

Patterns of DNA methylation in individual colonic crypts reveal aging and cancer-related field defects in the morphologically normal mucosa

Nigel J. Belshaw, Nandita Pal, Henri S. Tapp, Jack R. Dainty, Michael P.N. Lewis, Mark R. Williams, Elizabeth K. Lund and Ian T. Johnson

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 31, issue 6, pages 1158-1163
Published in print June 2010 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online April 2010 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgq077
Patterns of DNA methylation in individual colonic crypts reveal aging and cancer-related field defects in the morphologically normal mucosa

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Methylation of CpG islands (CGIs) in the promoter regions of tumour suppressor genes is common in colorectal cancer and occurs also in an age-dependent manner in the morphologically normal colorectal mucosa. In this study, we quantified the level of methylation of six genes associated with the Wnt signalling pathway (adenomatous polyposis coli, DKK1, WIF1, SFRP1, SFRP2 and SFRP5) together with long-interspersed nuclear element-1 as a surrogate for global methylation. DNA methylation was analysed in 260 individual colorectal crypts obtained from eight female patients with no evidence of colorectal disease and five with colorectal cancer. Significant variation in methylation levels for each of the six genes existed between crypts from the same biopsy. The variation in both global and gene-specific CGI methylation between crypts from the same individual was significantly less than that between individuals. Bisulphite sequencing provided insight into the mechanism of aberrant methylation showing that CGI methylation occurs in an ‘all-or-none’ manner by the directional spreading of methylation from further upstream. Univariate statistical analyses revealed that there were significant differences in crypt-specific methylation associated with both aging and disease status. A multivariate statistical modelling approach was able to distinguish both subject age and health status based on crypt-specific methylation profiles. Our results indicate that the differential methylation of genes associated with the Wnt signalling pathway affecting individual morphologically normal crypts may contribute to the age-dependent generation of the colonic field defect and, in combination with mutations, to the stepwise development of colorectal neoplasia.

Journal Article.  5761 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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