Alterations of DNA methylation were investigated in 6 urothelial carcinoma cell lines and 13 tumor tissues. The methylation of L1 LINE sequences was diminished in all cell lines (by 26 ± 5%; range, 11–49%) and in most tumors (by 21 ± 5%; range, 0–60%) compared to normal bladder mucosa. Hypermethylation of the calcitonin gene CpG island was restricted to cell lines and was not found in primary tumors, suggesting it had arisen during culture. In single-cell clones of a urothelial carcinoma cell line, both hypomethylation of L1 sequences and hypermethylation of the calcitonin gene persisted, indicating that they coexist within one cell. DNA methyltransferase expression did not correlate with the methylation status of the cell lines, but rather with histone H3 expression. Accordingly, it was down-regulated in quiescent cells. Aberrant expression of DNA methyltransferase is therefore not likely the cause for altered methylation patterns in urothelial carcinoma. L1 LINE hypomethylation seems to prevail in urothelial carcinoma and in this tumor might be useful for diagnostic or prognostic purposes.

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This study was funded by Grant Schu604/3-3 of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft to W. A. S.

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