Breast cancer is a heterogeneous disease that can be divided in subtypes based on histology, gene expression profiles as well as differences in genomic aberrations. Distinct global DNA methylation profiles have been reported in normal breast epithelial cells as well as in breast tumors. However, the influence of the tumor methylome on the previously described subgroups of breast cancer is not fully understood. Here we report the DNA methylation profiles of 80 breast tumors using a panel of 807 cancer related genes interrogating 1505 CpG sites. We identified three major clusters based on the methylation profiles; one consisting of mainly tumors of myoepithelial origin and two other clusters with tumors of predominantly luminal epithelial origin. The clusters were different with respect to estrogen receptor status, TP53 status, ErbB2 status and grade. The most significantly differentially methylated genes including HDAC1, TFF1, OGG1, BMP3, FZD9 and HOXA11 were confirmed by pyrosequencing. Gene Ontology analysis revealed enrichment for genes involved in developmental processes including homeobox domain genes (HOXA9, HOXA11, PAX6, MYBL2, ISL1 and IPF1) and (ETS1, HDAC1, CREBBP, GAS7, SPI1 and TBX1). Extensive correlation to mRNA expression was observed. Pathway analyses identified a significant association with canonical (curated) pathways such as hepatic fibrosis including genes like EGF, NGFR and TNF, dendritic cell maturation and the NF-κB signaling pathway. Our results show that breast tumor expression subtypes harbor major epigenetic differences and tumors with similar gene expression profiles might belong to epigenetically different subtypes. Some of the transcription factors identified, with key roles in differentiation and development might play a role in inducing and maintaining the different phenotypes.
Copyright © 2010 Federation of European Biochemical Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.