Genome-wide analysis of DNA methylation identifies the apoptosis-related gene UQCRH as a tumor suppressor in renal cancer

Mol Oncol. 2022 Feb;16(3):732-749. doi: 10.1002/1878-0261.13040. Epub 2021 Jul 5.


DNA hypermethylation is frequently observed in clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) and correlates with poor clinical outcomes. However, the detailed function of DNA hypermethylation in ccRCC has not been fully uncovered. Here, we show the role of DNA methylation in ccRCC progression through the identification of a target(s) of DNA methyltransferases (DNMT). Our preclinical model of ccRCC using the serial orthotopic inoculation model showed the upregulation of DNMT3B in advanced ccRCC. Pretreatment of advanced ccRCC cells with 5-aza-deoxycytidine, a DNMT inhibitor, attenuated the formation of primary tumors through the induction of apoptosis. DNA methylated sites were analyzed genome-wide using methylation array in reference to RNA-sequencing data. The gene encoding ubiquinol cytochrome c reductase hinge protein (UQCRH), one of the components of mitochondrial complex III, was extracted as a methylation target in advanced ccRCC. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that the expression of UQCRH in human ccRCC tissues was lower than normal adjacent tissues. Silencing of UQCRH attenuated the cytochrome c release in response to apoptotic stimuli and resulted in enhancement of primary tumor formation in vivo, implying the tumor-suppressive role of UQCRH. Moreover, 5-aza-deoxycytidine enhanced the therapeutic efficiency of mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitor everolimus in vivo. These findings suggested that the DNMT3B-induced methylation of UQCRH may contribute to renal cancer progression and implicated clinical significance of DNMT inhibitor as a therapeutic option for ccRCC.

Keywords: DNA methylation; UQCRH; apoptosis; renal cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell* / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA Methylation / genetics
  • Electron Transport Complex III / genetics
  • Electron Transport Complex III / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms* / pathology


  • UQCRH protein, human
  • Electron Transport Complex III