Integrative Analysis of Epigenome and Transcriptome Data Reveals Aberrantly Methylated Promoters and Enhancers in Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Front Oncol. 2021 Nov 10;11:769390. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2021.769390. eCollection 2021.


DNA methylation is a key transcription regulator, whose aberration was ubiquitous and important in most cancers including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Whole-genome bisulfite sequencing (WGBS) was conducted for comparison of DNA methylation in tumor and adjacent tissues from 33 HCC patients, accompanying RNA-seq to determine differentially methylated region-associated, differentially expressed genes (DMR-DEGs), which were independently replicated in the TCGA-LIHC cohort and experimentally validated via 5-aza-2-deoxycytidine (5-azadC) demethylation. A total of 9,867,700 CpG sites showed significantly differential methylation in HCC. Integrations of mRNA-seq, histone ChIP-seq, and WGBS data identified 611 high-confidence DMR-DEGs. Enrichment analysis demonstrated activation of multiple molecular pathways related to cell cycle and DNA repair, accompanying repression of several critical metabolism pathways such as tyrosine and monocarboxylic acid metabolism. In TCGA-LIHC, we replicated about 53% of identified DMR-DEGs and highlighted the prognostic significance of combinations of methylation and expression of nine DMR-DEGs, which were more efficient prognostic biomarkers than considering either type of data alone. Finally, we validated 22/23 (95.7%) DMR-DEGs in 5-azadC-treated LO2 and/or HepG2 cells. In conclusion, integration of epigenome and transcriptome data depicted activation of multiple pivotal cell cycle-related pathways and repression of several metabolic pathways triggered by aberrant DNA methylation of promoters and enhancers in HCC.

Keywords: ChIP-seq; DNA methylation; RNA-Seq; WGBS; enhancer; epigenetics; hepatocellular carcinoma; promoter.