CpG island methylator phenotype-low (CIMP-low) in colorectal cancer: possible associations with male sex and KRAS mutations

J Mol Diagn. 2006 Nov;8(5):582-8. doi: 10.2353/jmoldx.2006.060082.


The CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP or CIMP-high) with extensive promoter methylation seems to be a distinct epigenotype of colorectal cancer. However, no study has comprehensively examined features of colorectal cancer with less extensive promoter methylation (designated as "CIMP-low"). Using real-time polymerase chain reaction (MethyLight), we quantified DNA methylation in five CIMP-specific gene promoters [CACNA1G, CDKN2A (p16), CRABP1, MLH1, and NEUROG1] in 840 relatively unbiased, population-based colorectal cancer samples, obtained from two large prospective cohort studies. CIMP-low (defined as 1/5 to 3/5 methylated promoters) colorectal cancers were significantly more common among men (38 versus 30% in women, P = 0.01) and among KRAS-mutated tumors (44 versus 30% in KRAS/BRAF wild-type tumors, P = 0.0003; 19% in BRAF-mutated tumors, P < 0.0001). In addition, KRAS mutations were significantly more common in CIMP-low tumors (47%) than in CIMP-high tumors (with > or =4/5 methylated promoters, 12%, P < 0.0001) and CIMP-0 tumors (with 0/5 methylated promoters, 37%, P = 0.007). The associations of CIMP-low tumors with male sex and KRAS mutations still existed after tumors were stratified by microsatellite instability status. In conclusion, CIMP-low colorectal cancer is associated with male sex and KRAS mutations. The hypothesis that CIMP-low tumors are different from CIMP-high and CIMP-0 tumors needs to be tested further.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Colorectal Neoplasms / classification
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • CpG Islands*
  • DNA Methylation*
  • DNA Mutational Analysis / methods*
  • DNA, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • DNA, Neoplasm / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microsatellite Repeats
  • Mutation*
  • Phenotype
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • ras Proteins


  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • KRAS protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • ras Proteins