The CpG island methylator phenotype (CIMP) with widespread promoter CpG island methylation is a phenotype in colorectal cancer, associated with microsatellite instability (MSI) and BRAF mutation. Genome-wide hypomethylation may also play an important role in genomic instability. However, the relation between global DNA methylation level and methylation in individual CpG islands remains uncertain. Utilizing 869 population-based colorectal cancers, we measured long interspersed nucleotide element-1 (LINE-1) methylation level by Pyrosequencing, which correlates with global DNA methylation level. We quantified DNA methylation in 8 CIMP-specific promoters (CACNA1G, CDKN2A (p16), CRABP1, IGF2, MLH1, NEUROG1, RUNX3 and SOCS1) by real-time PCR (MethyLight technology). LINE-1 methylation levels in tumors were approximately normally distributed (mean, 61.4%; median, 62.3%; standard deviation, 9.6%). Among the 869 tumors, 128 (15%) were classified as CIMP-high (>or=6/8 methylated promoters). The mean LINE-1 methylation level was higher in CIMP-high tumors (65.1%, p < 0.0001) than non-CIMP-high tumors (60.7%), and higher in MSI-high tumors (64.7%, p < 0.0001) than non-MSI-high tumors (60.7%). When tumors were stratified by MSI/CIMP status, compared to non-MSI-high non-CIMP-high tumors (mean LINE-1 methylation level, 60.4%), the mean LINE-1 methylation level was higher in MSI-high CIMP-high (64.8%, p < 0.0001), MSI-high non-CIMP-high (64.6%, p = 0.03) and non-MSI-high CIMP-high tumors (66.1%, p = 0.0003). In addition, 18q loss of heterozygosity in non-MSI-high tumors was correlated with LINE-1 hypomethylation (p = 0.004). In conclusion, both CIMP-high and MSI-high are inversely associated with LINE-1 hypomethylation, suggesting that CIMP/MSI and genomic hypomethylation may represent different pathways to colorectal cancer. Our data also support a possible link between global hypomethylation and chromosomal instability.
(c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.