We addressed the precursor role of aging-like spontaneous promoter DNA hypermethylation in initiating tumorigenesis. Using mouse colon-derived organoids, we show that promoter hypermethylation spontaneously arises in cells mimicking the human aging-like phenotype. The silenced genes activate the Wnt pathway, causing a stem-like state and differentiation defects. These changes render aged organoids profoundly more sensitive than young ones to transformation by BrafV600E, producing the typical human proximal BRAFV600E-driven colon adenocarcinomas characterized by extensive, abnormal gene-promoter CpG-island methylation, or the methylator phenotype (CIMP). Conversely, CRISPR-mediated simultaneous inactivation of a panel of the silenced genes markedly sensitizes to BrafV600E-induced transformation. Our studies tightly link aging-like epigenetic abnormalities to intestinal cell fate changes and predisposition to oncogene-driven colon tumorigenesis.
Keywords: BRAF(V600E); CIMP; CpG-island DNA methylation; aging; cancer risk; colon adenocarcinomas; epigenetic silencing; transformation; tumor predisposition; tumorigenesis.
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