Distinct epigenetic phenotypes in seminomatous and nonseminomatous testicular germ cell tumors

Oncogene. 2002 May 30;21(24):3909-16. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1205488.


The genetic nature of testicular germ cell tumors and the molecular mechanisms underlying the morphological and clinical differences between the two subtypes, seminomas and nonseminomas, remains unclear. Genetic studies show that both subtypes exhibit many of the same regional genomic disruptions, although the frequencies vary and few clear differences are found. We demonstrate significant epigenetic differences between seminomas and nonseminomas by restriction landmark genomic scanning. Seminomas show almost no CpG island methylation, in contrast to nonseminomas that show CpG island methylation at a level similar to other solid tumors. We find an average of 1.11% of CpG islands methylation in nonseminomas, but only 0.08% methylated in seminomas. Furthermore, we demonstrate that seminomas are more highly hypomethylated than nonseminomas throughout their genome. Since both subtypes are thought to arise from primordial germ cells, the epigenetic differences seen between these subtypes may reflect the normal developmental switch in primordial germ cells from an undermethylated genome to a normally methylated genome. We discuss these findings in relation to different developmental models for seminomatous and nonseminomatous testicular germ cell tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Blotting, Southern
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • CpG Islands*
  • Cytosine / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation
  • Genome, Human
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Phenotype
  • Seminoma / genetics*
  • Seminoma / metabolism*
  • Testicular Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Testicular Neoplasms / metabolism*


  • Cytosine