Background: Granulosa cell tumors (GCTs) are relatively rare and are subtypes of the sex-cord stromal neoplasms. Methylation induced silencing in the promoters of genes such as tumor suppressor genes, DNA repair genes and pro-apoptotic genes is recognised as a critical factor in cancer development.
Methods: We examined the role of promoter hypermethylation, an epigenetic alteration that is associated with the silencing tumor suppressor genes in human cancer, by studying 5 gene promoters in 25 GCTs cases by methylation specific PCR and RT-PCR. In addition, the compatible tissues (normal tissues distant from lesion) from three non-astrocytoma patients were also included as the control.
Results: Frequencies of methylation in GCTs were 7/25 (28 % for FHIT), 6/25 (24% for FNACF), 3/25 (12% for Cyclin D2), 1/25 (4% for BRCA2) and 14/25 (56%) in RUNX3 genes. Correlation of promoter methylation with clinical characteristics and other genetic changes revealed that overall promoter methylation was higher in more advanced stage of the disease. Promoter methylation was associated with gene silencing in GCT cell lines. Treatment with methylation or histone deacetylation-inhibiting agents resulted in profound reactivation of gene expression.
Conclusions: These results may have implications in better understanding the underlying epigenetic mechanisms in GCT development, provide prognostic indicators, and identify important gene targets for treatment.