Background: The transitional-CpG sites between weakly methylated genes and densely methylated retroelements are overmethylated in the gastric mucosa infected with Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and they are undermethylated in the gastric cancers depending on the level of loss of heterozygosity (LOH) events. This study delineated the transitional-CpG methylation patterns of CpG-island-containing and -lacking genes in view of the retroelements.
Methods: The transitional-CpG sites of eight CpG-island-containing genes and six CpG-island-lacking genes were semi-quantitatively examined by performing radioisotope-labelling methylation-specific PCR under stringent conditions. The level of LOH in the gastric cancers was estimated using the 40 microsatellite markers on eight cancer-associated chromosomes. Each gene was scored as overmethylated or undermethylated based on an intermediate level of transitional-CpG methylation common in the H. pylori-negative gastric mucosa.
Results: The eight CpG-island genes examined were overmethylated depending on the proximity to the nearest retroelement in the H. pylori-positive gastric mucosa. The six CpG-island-lacking genes were similarly methylated in the H. pylori-positive and -negative gastric mucosa. In the gastric cancers, long transitional-CpG segments of the CpG-island genes distant from the retroelements remained overmethylated, whereas the overmethylation of short transitional-CpG segments close to the retroelements was not significant. Both the CpG-island-containing and -lacking genes tended to be decreasingly methylated in a LOH-level-dependent manner.
Conclusions: The overmethylated genes under the influence of retroelement methylation in the H. pylori-infected stomach are demethylated in the gastric cancers influenced by LOH.