Development of colorectal cancer (CRC) can occur both via gene mutations in tumor suppressor genes and oncogenes, as well as via epigenetic changes, including DNA methylation. Site-specific methylation in CRC regulates expression of tumor-associated genes. Right-sided colon tumors more frequently have BRAFp.V600E mutations and have higher methylation grades when compared to left-sided malignancies. The aim of this study was to identify DNA methylation changes associated with BRAFp.V600E mutation status. We performed methylation profiling of colon tumor DNA, isolated from frozen sections enriched for epithelial cells by macro-dissection, and from paired healthy tissue. Single gene analyses comparing BRAFp.V600E with BRAF wild type revealed MEIS1 as the most significant differentially methylated gene (log2 fold change: 0.89, false discovery rate-adjusted P-value 2.8*10-9). This finding was validated by methylation-specific PCR that was concordant with the microarray data. Additionally, validation in an independent cohort (n=228) showed a significant association between BRAF p.V600E and MEIS1 methylation (OR: 13.0, 95% CI: 5.2 - 33.0, P<0.0001). MEIS1 methylation was associated with decreased MEIS1 gene expression in both patient samples and CRC cell lines. The same was true for gene expression of a truncated form of MEIS1, MEIS1D27, which misses exon 8 and has a proposed tumor suppression function. To trace the origin of MEIS1 promoter methylation, 14 colorectal tumors were flow-sorted. Four out of eight BRAFp.V600E tumor epithelial fractions (50%) showed MEIS1 promoter methylation, as well as three out of eight BRAFp.V600E stromal fractions (38%). Only one out of six BRAF wild type showed MEIS1 promoter methylation in both the epithelial tumor and stromal fractions (17%). In conclusion, BRAFp.V600E colon tumors showed significant MEIS1 promoter methylation, which was associated with decreased MEIS1 gene expression. Copyright:,
Department of Pediatrics

Dihal, A., Boot, A., van Roon, E., Schrumpf, M., Fariña-Sarasqueta, A., Fiocco, M., … Boer, J. (2013). The homeobox gene MEIS1 is methylated in BRAFp.V600E mutated colon tumors. PLoS ONE, 8(11). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079898