JA Anderton, JC Lindsey, ME Lusher, RJ Gilbertson, S Bailey, DW Ellison, SC Clifford
Candidate gene investigations have indicated a significant role for epigenetic events in the pathogenesis of medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor of childhood. To assess the medulloblastoma epigenome more comprehensively, we undertook a genomewide investigation to identify genes that display evidence of methylation-dependent regulation. Expression microarray analysis of medulloblastoma cell lines following treatment with a DNA methyltransferase inhibitor revealed deregulation of multiple transcripts (3%-6% of probes per cell line). Eighteen independent genes demonstrated >3-fold reactivation in all cell lines tested. Bisulfite sequence analysis revealed dense CpG island methylation associated with transcriptional silencing for 12 of these genes. Extension of this analysis to primary tumors and the normal cerebellum revealed three major classes of epigenetically regulated genes: (1) normally methylated genes (DAZL, ZNF157, ASN) whose methylation reflects somatic patterns observed in the cerebellum, (2) X-linked genes (MSN, POU3F4, HTR2C) that show disruption of their sex-specific methylation patterns in tumors, and (3) tumor-specific methylated genes (COL1A2, S100A10, S100A6, HTATIP2, CDH1, LXN) that display enhanced methylation levels in tumors compared with the cerebellum. Detailed analysis of COL1A2 supports a key role in medulloblastoma tumorigenesis; dense biallelic methylation associated with transcriptional silencing was observed in 46 of 60 cases (77%). Moreover, COL1A2 status distinguished infant medulloblastomas of the desmoplastic histopathological subtype, indicating that distinct molecular pathogenesis may underlie these tumors and their more favorable prognosis. These data reveal a more diverse and expansive medulloblastoma epi genome than previously understood and provide strong evidence that the methylation status of specific genes may contribute to the biological subclassification of medulloblastoma.