Mutually exclusive promoter hypermethylation patterns of hMLH1 and O6-methylguanine DNA methyltransferase in colorectal cancer

J Mol Diagn. 2006 Feb;8(1):68-75. doi: 10.2353/jmoldx.2006.050084.


Hypermethylation of CpG islands in gene promoter regions is an important mechanism of gene inactivation in cancer. Many cellular pathways, including DNA repair, are inactivated by this type of epigenetic lesion, resulting in proposed mutator phenotypes. Promoter hypermethylation of hMLH1 has been implicated in a subset of colorectal cancers that show microsatellite instability (MSI). Transcriptional silencing of O6-methylguanine DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) has also been described in a variety of neoplasms and has been associated with a consequent mutational spectrum. We investigated the relationship between hMLH1 promoter hypermethylation and MGMT promoter hypermethylation in 110 colorectal cancers using methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction. Expression of hMLH1 and MGMT was assessed by immunohistochemistry. MSI testing was performed using the National Cancer Institute consensus panel of five microsatellite markers. Promoter hypermethylation of hMLH1 was detected in 12% of tumors. This was significantly associated with the MSI-high phenotype (P < 0.01) and loss of hMLH1 expression (P < 0.01). Methylation of the MGMT promoter was detected in 43% of tumors, which were mostly microsatellite stable or MSI-low (P = 0.041) and showed loss of MGMT expression (P < 0.01). We demonstrated an inverse relationship between hMLH1 promoter hypermethylation and MGMT promoter hypermethylation (P = 0.041), suggesting that a number of distinct hypermethylation-associated pathways may exist in colorectal cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Aged
  • Carcinoma / genetics*
  • Carcinoma / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics*
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • CpG Islands
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microsatellite Repeats / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • MutL Protein Homolog 1
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics*
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • O(6)-Methylguanine-DNA Methyltransferase / genetics*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Carrier Proteins
  • MLH1 protein, human
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • O(6)-Methylguanine-DNA Methyltransferase
  • MutL Protein Homolog 1