LINE-1 hypomethylation in human hepatocellular carcinomas correlates with shorter overall survival and CIMP phenotype
Reactivation of interspersed repetitive sequences due to loss of methylation is associated with genomic instability, one of the hallmarks of cancer cells. LINE-1 hypomethylation is a surrogate marker for global methylation loss and is potentially a new diagnostic and prog-nostic biomarker in tumors. However, the correlation of LINE-1 hypomethylation with clinico-pathological parameters and the CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP) in patients with liver tumors is not yet well defined, particularly in Caucasians who show quite low rates of HCV/HBV infection and a higher incidence of liver steatosis. Therefore, quantitative DNA methylation analysis of LINE-1, RASSF1A, and CCND2 using pyrosequencing was per-formed in human hepatocellular carcinomas (HCC, n = 40), hepatocellular adenoma (HCA, n = 10), focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH, n = 5), and corresponding peritumoral liver tissues as well as healthy liver tissues (n = 5) from Caucasian patients. Methylation results were correlated with histopathological findings and clinical data. We found loss of LINE-1 DNA meth- ylation only in HCC. It correlated significantly with poor survival (log rank test, p = 0.007). Aninverse correlation was found for LINE-1 and RASSF1A DNA methylation levels (r2 = -0.47,p = 0.002). LINE-1 hypomethylation correlated with concurrent RASSF1/CCND2 hypermethylation (Fisher’s exact test, p = 0.02). Both LINE-1 hypomethylation and RASSF1A/CCND2 hypermethylation were not found in benign hepatocellular tumors (HCA and FNH). Our results show that LINE-1 hypomethylation and RASSF1A/CCND2 hypermethylation are epigenetic aberrations specific for the process of malignant liver transformation. In addition, LINE-1 hypomethylation might serve as a future predictive biomarker to identify HCC patients with unfavorable overall survival.