Udali S, Guarini P, Ruzzenente A, Ferrarini A, Guglielmi A, Lotto V, Tononi P, Pattini P, Moruzzi S, Campagnaro T, Conci S, Olivieri O, Corrocher R, Delledonne M, Choi SW, Friso S
BACKGROUND: Alcohol is a well-known risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), but the mechanisms underlying the alcohol-related hepatocarcinogenesis are still poorly understood. Alcohol alters the provision of methyl groups within the hepatic one-carbon metabolism, possibly inducing aberrant DNA methylation. Whether specific pathways are epigenetically regulated in alcohol-associated HCC is, however, unknown. The aim of the present study was to investigate the genome-wide promoter DNA methylation and gene expression profiles in non-viral, alcohol-associated HCC. From eight HCC patients undergoing curative surgery, array-based DNA methylation and gene expression data of all annotated genes were analyzed by comparing HCC tissue and homologous cancer-free liver tissue. RESULTS: After merging the DNA methylation with gene expression data, we identified 159 hypermethylated-repressed, 30 hypomethylated-induced, 49 hypermethylated-induced, and 56 hypomethylated-repressed genes. Notably, promoter DNA methylation emerged as a novel regulatory mechanism for the transcriptional repression of genes controlling the retinol metabolism (ADH1A, ADH1B, ADH6, CYP3A43, CYP4A22, RDH16), iron homeostasis (HAMP), one-carbon metabolism (SHMT1), and genes with a putative, newly identified function as tumor suppressors (FAM107A, IGFALS, MT1G, MT1H, RNF180). CONCLUSIONS: A genome-wide DNA methylation approach merged with array-based gene expression profiles allowed identifying a number of novel, epigenetically regulated candidate tumor-suppressor genes in alcohol-associated hepatocarcinogenesis. Retinol metabolism genes and SHMT1 are also epigenetically regulated through promoter DNA methylation in alcohol-associated HCC. Due to the reversibility of epigenetic mechanisms by environmental/nutritional factors, these findings may open up to novel interventional strategies for hepatocarcinogenesis prevention in HCC related to alcohol, a modifiable dietary component.