Testicular germ cell tumors are the most frequent malignant tumors in young Caucasian males, with increasing incidence. The actual model of tumorigenesis is based on the theory that a block in maturation of fetal germ cells lead to formation of the intratubular germ cell neoplasia unclassified. Early fetal germ cells and undifferentiated germ cell tumors express pluripotency markers such as the transcription factor NANOG. It has been demonstrated that epigenetic modifications, such as promoter DNA methylation, are able to silence gene expression in normal and cancer cells. Here we show that OCT3/4-SOX2 mediated expression of NANOG can be silenced by methylation of promoter CpG-sites. We found that global methylation of DNA decreased from fetal spermatogonia to mature sperm. In contrast, CpGs in the NANOG promoter were found hypomethylated in spermatogonia and hypermethylated in sperm. This selective repression might reflect the cells need to suppress pluripotency in order to prevent malignant transformation. Finally, methylation of CpGs in the NANOG promoter in germ cell tumors and derived cell lines correlated to differentiation state.

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doi.org/10.4161/epi.6.1.13433, hdl.handle.net/1765/31765
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Nettersheim, D. (2011). NANOG promoter methylation and expression correlation during normal and malignant human germ cell development. Epigenetics, 6(1), 114–122. doi:10.4161/epi.6.1.13433