Erichsen L, Ghanjati F, Beermann A, Poyet C, Hermanns T, Schulz WA, Seifert HH, Wild PJ, Buser L, Kröning A, Braunstein S, Anlauf M, Jankowiak S, Hassan M, Bendhack ML, Araúzo-Bravo MJ, Santourlidis S
Urothelial carcinoma (UC), the most common cancer of the urinary bladder causes severe morbidity and mortality, e.g. about 40.000 deaths in the EU annually, and incurs considerable costs for the health system due to the need for prolonged treatments and long-term monitoring. Extensive aberrant DNA methylation is described to prevail in urothelial carcinoma and is thought to contribute to genetic instability, altered gene expression and tumor progression. However, it is unknown how this epigenetic alteration arises during carcinogenesis. Intact methyl group metabolism is required to ensure maintenance of cell-type specific methylomes and thereby genetic integrity and proper cellular function. Here, using two independent techniques for detecting DNA methylation, we observed DNA hypermethylation of the 5'-regulatory regions of the key methyl group metabolism genes ODC1, AHCY and MTHFR in early urothelial carcinoma. These hypermethylation events are associated with genome-wide DNA hypomethylation which is commonly associated with genetic instability. We therefore infer that hypermethylation of methyl group metabolism genes acts in a feed-forward cycle to promote additional DNA methylation changes and suggest a new hypothesis on the molecular etiology of urothelial carcinoma.