Promoter Hypermethylation of the ATM Gene as a Novel Biomarker for Breast Cancer

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Advanced Studies (JNIAS), School of Life Sciences, Centre for Biotechnology and Bioinformatics, Secunderabad- 500003,Telangana, India.

2 Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences, Department of Surgical Oncology, Hyderabad, Telangana, India.


Background: Breast cancer may be induced by activation of protooncogenes to oncogenes and in many cases inactivation of tumor suppressor genes. Ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) is an important tumor suppressor gene which plays central roles in the maintenance of genomic integrity by activating cell cycle checkpoints and promoting repair of double-strand breaks of DNA. In breast cancer, decrease ATM expression correlates with a poor outcome; however, the molecular mechanisms underlying downregulation are still unclear. Promoter hypermethylation may contribute in downregulation. Hence the present investigation was designed to evaluate promoter methylation and expression of the ATM gene in breast cancer cases, and to determine links with clinical and demographic manifestations, in a South Indian population. Methods: Tumor biopsy samples were collected from 50 pathologically confirmed sporadic breast cancer cases. DNA was isolated from tumor and adjacent non-tumorous regions, and sodium bisulfite conversion and methylation-specific PCR were performed using MS-PCR primers for the ATM promoter region. In addition, ATM mRNA expression was also analyzed for all samples using real-time PCR. Results: Fifty eight percent (58%) of cancer tissue samples showed promoter hypermethylation for the ATM gene, in contrast to only 4.44% of normal tissues (p= 0.0001). Furthermore, ATM promoter methylation was positively associated with age (p = 0.01), tumor size (p=0.045) and advanced stage of disease i.e. stages III and IV (p =0.019). An association between promoter hypermethylation and lower expression of ATM mRNA was also found (p=0.035). Conclusion: We report for the first time that promoter hypermethylation of ATM gene may be useful as a potential new biomarker for breast cancer, especially in the relatively young patients.


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