Li L, Zhang Y, Fan Y, Sun K, Su X, Du Z, Tsao SW, Loh TK, Sun H, Chan AT, Zeng YX, Chan WY, Chan FK, Tao Q
Aims: Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a common tumor consistently associated with Epstein-Barr virus infection and prevalent in South China, including Hong Kong, and southeast Asia. Current genomic sequencing studies found only rare mutations in NPC, indicating its critical epigenetic etiology, while no epigenome exists for NPC as yet. Materials & methods: We profiled the methylomes of NPC cell lines and primary tumors, together with normal nasopharyngeal epithelial cells, using methylated DNA immunoprecipitation (MeDIP). Results: We observed extensive, genome-wide methylation of cellular genes. Epigenetic disruption of Wnt, MAPK, TGF-β and Hedgehog signaling pathways was detected. Methylation of Wnt signaling regulators (SFRP1, 2, 4 and 5, DACT2, DKK2 and DKK3) was frequently detected in tumor and nasal swab samples from NPC patients. Functional studies showed that these genes are bona fide tumor-suppressor genes for NPC. Conclusion: The NPC methylome shows a special high-degree CpG methylation epigenotype, similar to the Epstein-Barr virus-infected gastric cancer, indicating a critical epigenetic etiology for NPC pathogenesis.