Glioma Malignancy-Dependent NDRG2 Gene Methylation and Downregulation Correlates with Poor Patient Outcome

J Cancer. 2014 May 13;5(6):446-56. doi: 10.7150/jca.9140. eCollection 2014.


Aims: NDRG2 (N-myc downstream regulated gene 2) gene is involved in important biological processes: cell differentiation, growth and apoptosis. Several molecular studies have shown NDRG2 as a promising diagnostic marker involved in brain tumor pathology. The aim of the study was to investigate how changes in epigenetic modification and activity of NDRG2 reflect on glioma malignancy and patient outcome.

Methods: 137 different malignancy grade gliomas were used as the study material: 14 pilocytic astrocytomas grade I, 45 diffuse astrocytomas grade II, 29 anaplastic astrocytomas grade III, and 49 grade IV astrocytomas (glioblastomas). Promoter methylation analysis has been carried out by using methylation-specific PCR, whereas RT-PCR and Western-blot analyses were used to measure NDRG2 expression levels.

Results: We demonstrated that NDRG2 gene methylation frequency increased whereas expression at both mRNA and protein levels markedly decreased in glioblastoma specimens compared to the lower grade astrocytomas. NDRG2 transcript and protein levels did not correlate with the promoter methylation state, suggesting the presence of alternative regulatory gene expression mechanisms that may operate in a tissue-specific manner in gliomas. Kaplan-Meier analyses revealed significant differences in survival time in gliomas stratified by NDRG2 methylation status and mRNA and protein expression levels.

Conclusions: Our findings highlight the usefulness of combining epigenetic data to gene expression patterns at mRNA and protein level in tumor biomarker studies, and suggest that NDRG2 downregulation might bear influence on glioma tumor progression while being associated with higher malignancy grade.

Keywords: DNA methylation; NDRG2; glioma malignancy grade; patient survival.; protein and mRNA expression.