Genetic and epigenetic alterations in carcinogenesis

Mutat Res. 2000 Apr;462(2-3):235-46. doi: 10.1016/s1383-5742(00)00005-3.


Precise and deliberate observations on tumors stand true for decades, and then meet mechanistic explanations. The presence of genetic alterations in tumors is now widely accepted, and explains the irreversible nature of tumors. However, observations on tissue differentiation indicated that it shares something in common with carcinogenesis, that is, "epigenetic" changes. Now, DNA methylation in CpG sites is known to be precisely regulated in tissue differentiation, and is supposed to be playing key roles. Many tumor suppressor genes are known to be inactivated by the hypermethylation of their promoter regions. DNA methylation is connected to histone deacetylation and chromatin structure, and regulatory enzymes of DNA methylation are being cloned. Dedifferentiation, dis(dys)differentiation and convergence of cancer cells were studied phenotypically and biochemically, and are now explained from molecular aspects of disturbances in tissue-specific transcription factors. Spontaneous regression of malignant tumors enchanted researchers, and it is now noticed that genes inactivated by hypermethylation are frequently involved in tumors that relatively often undergo spontaneous regression. Carcinogenic mechanisms of some carcinogens seem to involve modifications of epigenetic switch, and some dietary factors also have the possibility to modify the switches. Based on the growing understanding of the roles of DNA methylation, several new methodologies were developed to make a genome-wide search for changes in DNA methylation. Now, a wave of new findings is in sight.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA Methylation*
  • DNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • DNA, Neoplasm / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology


  • DNA, Neoplasm