Promoter hypermethylation of neural-related genes is compatible with stemness in solid cancers

Musa Idris, Louis Coussement, Maria M. Alves, Tim De Meyer, Veerle Melotte*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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BACKGROUND: DNA hypermethylation is an epigenetic feature that modulates gene expression, and its deregulation is observed in cancer. Previously, we identified a neural-related DNA hypermethylation fingerprint in colon cancer, where most of the top hypermethylated and downregulated genes have known functions in the nervous system. To evaluate the presence of this signature and its relevance to carcinogenesis in general, we considered 16 solid cancer types available in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). RESULTS: All tested cancers showed significant enrichment for neural-related genes amongst hypermethylated genes. This signature was already present in two premalignant tissue types and could not be explained by potential confounders such as bivalency status or tumor purity. Further characterization of the neural-related DNA hypermethylation signature in colon cancer showed particular enrichment for genes that are overexpressed during neural differentiation. Lastly, an analysis of upstream regulators identified RE1-Silencing Transcription factor (REST) as a potential mediator of this DNA methylation signature. CONCLUSION: Our study confirms the presence of a neural-related DNA hypermethylation fingerprint in various cancers, of genes linked to neural differentiation, and points to REST as a possible regulator of this mechanism. We propose that this fingerprint indicates an involvement of DNA hypermethylation in the preservation of neural stemness in cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article number31
JournalEpigenetics & Chromatin
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by a Hestia—The Dutch Research Council (NWO) grant (vidw.1154.18.045) obtained by M. Idris and a VENI—NOW grant (016.186.124) awarded to Dr. V. Melotte.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, BioMed Central Ltd., part of Springer Nature.


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