Background. Adult tumors can be characterized by hypermethylation of CpG islands associated with 5′-upstream and coding regions of specific genes. This hypermethylation can also be part of the aging process. In contrast, much less is known about gene hypermethylation in childhood cancers, where methylation changes are not part of the aging process but likely represent developmental dysregulation. PAX3 is an important gene in muscle development and muscle-producing neoplasms such as rhabdomyosarcomas. Procedures. We examined the methylation status of a PAX3 5′-CpG island in rhabdomyosarcoma subtypes and in normal fetal skeletal muscle. PAX3 methylation was analyzed in 15 embryonal rhabdomyosarcomas, 12 alveolar rhabdomyosarcomas, and in six normal skeletal muscle samples, using semi-quantitative PCR analysis of DNA digested with methyl-sensitive restriction enzymes. Results. The CpG island in the upstream region of the human PAX3 gene was hypermethylated in the majority of ERMS examined (13 of 15 tumors, mean of 52% methylation), whereas most ARMS (9 of 12 tumors) and all normal muscle samples showed relative hypomethylation (both 18% mean methylation). Various CpG sites differ in contribution to overall PAX3 CpG island methylation, with methylation at a Haell site being inversely correlated with PAX3 expression. Conclusions. PAX3 CpG island methylation appears to distinguish embryonal subtype of rhabdomyosarcoma from alveolar, and methylation at certain sites within this CpG island is inversely correlated with PAX3 expression. In addition to exemplifying developmental dysregulation, methylation of PAX3 has potential in the development of an epigenetic profile for the diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma.
- DNA methylation
- Gene expression
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health