• HPV16;
  • methylation;
  • epidemiology;
  • receiver operating curve;
  • biomarker


We explored the association of human papillomavirus type 16 (HPV16) DNA methylation with age, viral load, viral persistence and risk of incident and prevalent high grade CIN (CIN2+) in serially collected specimens from the Guanacaste, Costa Rica cohort. 273 exfoliated cervical cell specimens (diagnostic and pre-diagnostic) were selected: (1) 92 with HPV16 DNA clearance (controls), (2) 72 with HPV16 DNA persistence (without CIN2+) and (3) 109 with CIN2+. DNA was extracted, bisulfite converted and methylation was quantified using pyrosequencing assays at 66 CpGs across the HPV genome. The Kruskal-Wallis test was used to determine significant differences among groups, and receiver operating characteristic curve analyses were used to evaluate how well methylation identified women with CIN2+. In diagnostic specimens, 88% of CpG sites had significantly higher methylation levels in CIN2+ after correction for multiple tests compared with controls. The highest area under the ROC curve (AUC) was 0.82 for CpG site 6457 in L1, and a diagnostic sensitivity of 91% corresponded to a specificity of 60% for CIN2+. Prospectively, 17% of CpG sites had significantly higher methylation in pre-diagnostic CIN2+ specimens (median time of 3 years before diagnosis) versus controls. The strongest pre-diagnostic CpG site was 6367 in L1 with an AUC of 0.76. Age-stratified analyses suggested that women older than the median age of 28 years have an increased risk of precancer associated with high methylation. Higher methylation in CIN2+ cases was not explained by higher viral load. We conclude that elevated levels of HPV16 DNA methylation may be useful to predict concurrently diagnosed as well as future CIN2+.