DNA Methyltransferases as Potential Biomarkers for HCV Related Hepatocellular Carcinoma

Document Type : Research Articles


1 Department of Clinical and Chemical Pathology, National Liver Institute, Menoufia University, Shebeen El-Kom, Egypt.

2 Department of Clinical pathology, National Cancer Institute, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt.

3 Hepatology and Gastroenterology, National Liver Institute, Clinical Pathology, Menoufia University, Shebeen El-Kom, Egypt.

4 Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, Cairo, Egypt.


Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a major health concern in many countries including Egypt. The alteration in DNA methylation that was observed in HCC patients suggests a possible role of DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) in the disease pathogenesis in addition to potential role as a disease biomarker. Aim: To study the change in DNMTs expression in chronic HCV infected patients as potential non- invasive biomarker for diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma. Methods: 26 patients with HCC, 45 patients with liver cirrhosis, 20 chronic HCV patients and 20 apparently healthy individuals as a control group were enrolled in this study. Real-Time Quantitative Reverse Transcription PCR (qRT-PCR) was performed for all study participants. Results: A significant difference in DNMTs expression was observed among the studied groups. Receiver operating characteristics (ROC) curve analysis revealed that with a cutoff value of 3.16 for DNMT 3A expression, sensitivity and specificity were 80.8 and 95.6% respectively and area under curve (AUC) was 0.958, p < 0.001 for discriminating hepatocellular carcinoma among post hepatitis C cirrhotic patients. Besides DNMT 3B relative expression cutoff value of 3.10 showed 84.6% sensitivity and 77.8% specificity and AUC was 0.888, p < 0.001. On the other hand, cutoff value 0.65 for DNMT1 relative expression showed 92.3% sensitivity and 44.4% specificity and AUC was 0.72, p= 0.002. DNMT1, DNMT 3A and DNMT 3B have significant positive correlation with the level of AFP (p-value = 0.003, 0.004 and 0.008 respectively). The relative expression of DNMT3B was significantly correlated to focal lesion size (p-value = 0.015). High DNMTs expression was significantly associated with the presence of multiple focal lesions but not with the Child Pugh grade (p> 0.05). Conclusion: The mRNA levels of DNMTs could be a potential biomarker for early detection of HCC development.


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