Background: MEFV mutations and decreased expression level of the gene are related to FMF pathology. DNA methylation at CpG islands is a well-known mechanism for transcriptional silencing. MEFV has a CpG island, spanning a part of the first intron and the whole of the second exon of the gene covering 998 bp region. Here, we tested the hypothesis that the MEFV transcript level in FMF patients correlates with its methylation level, and methylation, by allowing transcription silencing, has a role in FMF ethiopathogenesis.
Methods: The study group was composed of pediatric FMF patients (N = 51) and age-gender matched healthy controls (N = 21). The relative expression level of MEFV was assessed via quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) and bisulfite sequencing (BS) was performed to analyse the methylation level quantitatively.
Results: MEFV expression in FMF patients were decreased compared to healthy controls (P = 0.031). Methylation level of exon 2 of MEFV was found to be slightly higher in FMF patients compared to healthy controls (76% versus 74%) (P = 0.049). The expression level of the MEFV was negatively correlated with the methylation level of the CpG island in both FMF and healthy controls groups (cor = -0.29, P = 0.041) but more so in the FMF only group (cor = -0.36, P = 0.035).
Conclusions: In this study, the relation between reduced MEFV expression level and FMF was confirmed. Observed slight increase in methylation in FMF patients, and correlation of methylation with expression might be indicative of its role in FMF, however a larger dataset is needed to confirm our preliminary findings.