Reduction of global DNA methylation is a characteristic epigenetic alteration of various cancer types, including colorectal cancer. Abnormality of several factors, such as DNA methyltransferases (DNMT), demethylases, or deviation in methyl-donor (folate and S-adenosylmethionine) availability can contribute to the development of genome-wide hypomethylation. Detection of epigenetic changes as global DNA hypomethylation in cell-free DNA fraction obtained from blood samples can expand the opportunities for the early recognition of colorectal cancer. One of our main goals was the investigation of global DNA methylation patterns in tissue biopsies (n=183) and cell-free DNA fraction of blood samples (n=48) along the colorectal normal-adenoma-carcinoma sequence and in inflammatory bowel disease. Moreover, we aimed to explore possible underlying mechanisms of genome-wide hypomethylation formation in 12 colorectal tumor tissue sections, containing transition zones. Using LINE-1 pyrosequencing, significantly reduced global DNA methylation level was detected in line with cancer progression in tissue specimens (normal: 77.5±1.7%, adenoma: 72.7±4.8%, carcinoma: 69.7±7.6%, p≤0.0001) and in liquid biopsies as well (normal: 82.0±2.0%, adenoma: 80.0±1.7%, carcinoma: 79.8±1.3%, p≤0.01). However, no significant methylation changes were found in inflammatory bowel disease cases. Analyzing microarray data in silico, altered mRNA expression of certain methylation-, and one-carbon metabolism-related genes were detected in tumorous specimens vs. healthy biopsies, from which DNMT1 was upregulated, and folate receptor 2 (FOLR2) was downregulated. DNMT and FOLR2 expression were validated by immunohistochemistry. Furthermore, significantly reduced folic acid and S-adenosylmethionine content were observed in parallel with diminishing 5-methylcytosine levels in adenoma and carcinoma sections compared to normal adjacent to tumor tissue areas by immunolabeling (p≤0.05). Our results suggest that intraindividual monitoring of genome-wide hypomethylation may assist in the recognition of adenoma formation, cancer progression, or remission as well. Moreover, lower global DNA methylation level could be connected to decreased methyl-donor availability with the contribution of reduced FOLR2 expression.

Citation Format: Krisztina Andrea Szigeti, Alexandra Kalmár, Gábor Valcz, Barbara Kinga Barták, Zsófia Nagy, Sára Zsigrai, Ildikó Felletár, Árpád V Patai, Tamás Micsik, Márton Papp, Eszter Márkus, Zsolt Tulassay, Péter Igaz, István Takács, Béla Molnár. Global DNA hypomethylation can be linked to decreased methyl-donor content in colorectal cancer progression [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2022; 2022 Apr 8-13. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2022;82(12_Suppl):Abstract nr 3745.