Background: E-cadherin methylation is important in gastric carcinogenesis. Reversing hypermethylation may halt the carcinogenic process. We have previously reported that Helicobacter pylori infection is associated with E-cadherin methylation in chronic gastritis patients.
Aim: To examine if eradication of H pylori could reverse E-cadherin methylation.
Methods: Patients with dyspepsia and positive for H pylori infection, with a mucosal biopsy showing chronic active gastritis, were randomised to receive H pylori eradication therapy (group 1, n = 41) or no treatment (group 2, n = 40), and were followed up prospectively. Gastric mucosae were taken for methylation assay at week 0 (before treatment) and week 6 (after treatment). Archived specimens of intestinal metaplasia with H pylori infection (n = 22) and without (n = 19) were retrieved for methylation analysis. Methylation was assessed using methylation specific polymerase chain reaction and sequencing.
Results: Methylation at E-cadherin was detected in 46% (19/41) and 17% (7/41) of patients at weeks 0 and 6, respectively, in group 1 (p = 0.004); 78.9% (15/19) of specimens were unmethylated after eradication of H pylori. Mucosal biopsy showed chronic inactive gastritis in 35 patients, intestinal metaplasia in one, and normal mucosa in five at week 6. Methylation was detected in 47.5% (19/40) and 52.5% (21/40) of patients at weeks 0 and 6, respectively, in group 2 (P = 0.5). Gastric mucosal biopsy showed persistent chronic active gastritis in all cases. Methylation frequency did not differ in H pylori positive or negative intestinal metaplastic specimens (72.7% v 63%; p = 0.5).
Conclusion: H pylori eradication therapy could reverse methylation in patients with chronic gastritis. This demonstrates an environmental effect on methylation.