Clinical significance of UNC5B expression in colorectal cancer

Int J Oncol. 2012 Jan;40(1):209-16. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2011.1201. Epub 2011 Sep 15.


The purpose of this study was to find a methylation-related gene that could become a biomarker or therapeutic target in colorectal carcinoma (CRC). We screened candidate genes suspected to be silenced by DNA methylation using cDNA microarray analysis. To investigate the clinical significance of one candidate gene (UNC5B), we analyzed the correlation between mRNA expression and clinicopathological features using clinical tissue samples. Moreover, methylation specific PCR analysis was performed to reveal whether the promoter region was methylated in CRC cell lines. We found 75 candidate genes that were potentially suppressed by DNA methylation in CRC. We focused on UNC5B, a possible tumor suppressor gene and regulator of apoptosis known to be inactivated in CRC. The mRNA expression analysis using tissue samples revealed that UNC5B mRNA was down-expressed in about 20% of CRC patients, and the patients with low-UNC5B-expression tumors showed a significantly higher recurrence rate after curative surgery. According to the univariate and multivariate analysis, low UNC5B expression was an independent risk factor for postoperative recurrence in stage I, II and III CRC patients. Furthermore, patients with low expression of UNC5B in tumors had significantly poorer prognosis than those with high expression of UNC5B. Although UNC5B mRNA expression was restored by the demethylation treatment in CRC cell lines, the promoter region of UNC5B was not methylated. UNC5B is a potential biomarker for the selection of patients with high risk of postoperative recurrence and worse prognosis in CRC.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / biosynthesis
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / surgery
  • DNA Methylation
  • Down-Regulation
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Gene Silencing
  • HCT116 Cells
  • HT29 Cells
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / genetics
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Netrin Receptors
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Netrin Receptors
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • UNC5B protein, human