Promoter hypermethylation is an alternative mechanism of gene silencing in human cancers including gastric cancer. While intestinal metaplasia (IM) is generally regarded as a precancerous lesion of the stomach, our study examines the presence of gene promoter hypermethylation in IM of patients with and without gastric cancer. We examined 31 samples of gastric cancer, 36 gastric IM (21 associated with gastric cancer and 15 from noncancer patients) and 10 normal gastric biopsies. Tissues containing foci of IM were carefully microdissected from paraffin-embedded section. Bisulfite-modified DNA was examined for gene promoter hypermethylation in DAP-kinase, E-cadherin, GSTP1, p14, p15, p16, RASSF1A and hMLH1 by methylation-specific-PCR. None of the control gastric tissues had hypermethylation detected, but gene promoter hypermethylation was frequently detected in gastric cancer and IM. The mean number of methylated genes in cancer and IM was 3.0 and 1.4, respectively (p < 0.0001). Methylation in IM from cancer patients was all associated with concurrent methylation in the corresponding tumor samples. The numbers of methylated genes were similar in IM obtained from cancer and noncancer patients. By examining the methylation patterns of these genes, 3 differential methylation patterns were recognized: hypermethylation was more frequent in cancer than in IM (DAP-kinase, p14, p15 and p16); comparable frequencies of methylation in cancer and IM (E-cadherin and hMLH1); and no methylation (GSTP1). Aberrant methylation in tumor-related genes is frequently detected in gastric IM of both cancer and noncancer patients, suggesting their early involvement in the multistep progression of gastric carcinogenesis.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.