Background: Epigenetic alterations, such as aberrant DNA methylation of promoter and enhancer regions, which lead to atypical gene expression, have been associated with carcinogenesis. In hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), genome-wide analysis of methylation has only recently been used. For a better understanding of hepatocarcinogenesis, we applied an even higher resolution analysis of the promoter methylome to identify previously unknown regions and genes differentially methylated in HCC.
Results: Optimized liquid hybridization capture-based bisulfite sequencing (LHC-BS) was developed to quantitatively analyze 1.86 million CpG sites in individual samples from eight pairs of HCC and adjacent tissues. By linking the differentially methylated regions (DMRs) in promoters to the differentially expressed genes (DEGs), we identified 12 DMR-associated genes. We further utilized Illumina MiSeq combining the bisulfite sequencing PCR approach to validate the 12 candidate genes. Analysis of an additional 78 HCC pairs on the Illumina MiSeq platform confirmed that 7 genes showed either promoter hyper-methylation (SMAD6, IFITM1, LRRC4, CHST4, and TBX15) or hypo-methylation (CCL20 and NQO1) in HCC.
Conclusions: Novel methylome profiling provides a cost-efficient approach to identifying candidate genes in human HCC that may contribute to hepatocarcinogenesis. Our work provides further information critical for understanding the epigenetic processes underlying tumorigenesis and development of HCC.
Keywords: DNA methylation; Hepatocellular carcinoma; Liquid hybridization capture-based bisulfite sequencing.