Background: Silencing of the suppressor of cytokine signaling ( SOCS-1) by aberrant methylation at the CpG island in the coding region gene has been reported in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). However, principally, it is methylation in the 5'-noncoding region but not that in the coding region which determines the regulation of gene expression.
Methods: Methylation-specific PCR was performed for the analysis of methylation status both in the 5'-noncoding region and the CpG island of SOCS-1 from 22 HCC tissue samples with adjacent non-HCC tissue samples and from two cell lines.
Results: Using primers in the CpG island, 9 of 22 HCC samples exhibited aberrant methylation of SOCS-1, while only 1 of 22 adjacent non-HCC samples did so. The unmethylation pattern was detected in 1 of 22 HCC and in 5 of 22 non-HCC samples. Thus, aberrant methylation of SOCS-1 was significantly associated with HCC ( P = 0.0076 by Fisher's exact test). Using primers in the 5'-noncoding region, aberrant methylation was observed in 12 of 22 HCC and in 2 non-HCC samples. The unmethylated pattern was observed in 5 of 22 HCC and in 10 of 22 non-HCC samples ( P = 0.0042). There was no significant correlation between the methylation status of SOCS-1 and clinicopathological findings, such as the presence or absence of cirrhosis or the histological grade of HCC.
Conclusions: Aberrant methylation of the SOCS-1 had a significant correlation with HCC. The rate of aberrant methylation was similar in the 5'-noncoding region and in the CpG island. Aberrant methylation of SOCS-1 may be associated with hepatocarcinogenesis, although further studies are necessary.