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Hepatitis B virus X protein induces hypermethylation of p16INK4A promoter via DNA methyltransferases in the early stage of HBV-associated hepatocarcinogenesis

Authors


Rong Zhu, PhD, Department of Pathology, Shanghai Medical College, Fudan University, 138 Yixueyuan Road, Shanghai 200032, China. E-mail: zhurongss@fudan.edu.cn

Abstract

Summary.  The aim of the present study was to authenticate the involvement of DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) and methyl-CpG binding domain protein 2 (MBD2) in the process of HBx induced p16INK4A promoter hypermethylation in HBV-related hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and their corresponding noncancerous liver tissues. Eighty-eight fresh tissue specimens of surgically resected HBV-associated HCC and their corresponding noncancerous liver tissues were studied. The methylation status of the p16INK4A promoter was determined by methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction (MSP). Reverse transcription and real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) showed the expression of DNMTs, MBD2 and HBx. Western blot and immunohistochemistry were used for the protein analysis of HBx, DNMT1, DNMT3A and P16. Tissue HBV-DNA levels were determined by RT-PCR. HBV genotype was examined by nested PCR and restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP). In the corresponding noncancerous liver tissues, higher HBx expression was associated with the hypermethylation of the p16INK4A promoter. HBx was positively correlated with the DNMT1 and DNMT3A at both the mRNA and protein level. Furthermore, HBx, DNMT1 and DNMT3A protein expression were negatively correlated with p16 protein expression. In HCC tissues, HBx was positively correlated with DNMT1 and DNMT3A at both mRNA and protein level, but HBx expression did not correlate with hypermethylation of the p16INK4A promoter or p16 protein expression. The methylation status of the p16INK4A promoter did not correlate with clinicopathological characteristics. DNMT1 and DNMT3A may play important roles in the process of HBx inducing hypermethylation of the p16INK4A promoter in the early stages of HBV-associated HCC. HBx-DNMTs-p16INK4A promoter hypermethylation may constitute a mechanism for tumorigenesis during HBV-associated hepatocarcinogenesis.

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