The diversity of breast cancers reflects variations in underlying biology and affects the clinical implications for patients. Gene expression studies have identified five major subtypes- Luminal A, Luminal B, basal-like, ErbB2+ and Normal-Like. We set out to determine the role of DNA methylation in subtypes by performing genome-wide scans of CpG methylation in breast cancer samples with known expression-based subtypes. Unsupervised hierarchical clustering using a set of most varying loci clustered the tumors into a Luminal A majority (82%) cluster, Basal-like/ErbB2+ majority (86%) cluster and a non-specific cluster with samples that were also inconclusive in their expression-based subtype correlations. Contributing methylation loci were both gene associated loci (30%) and non-gene associated (70%), suggesting subtype dependant genome-wide alterations in the methylation landscape. The methylation patterns of significant differentially methylated genes in luminal A tumors are similar to those identified in CD24 + luminal epithelial cells and the patterns in basal-like tumors similar to CD44 + breast progenitor cells. CpG islands in the HOXA cluster and other homeobox (IRX2, DLX2, NKX2-2) genes were significantly more methylated in Luminal A tumors. A significant number of genes (2853, p < 0.05) exhibited expression-methylation correlation, implying possible functional effects of methylation on gene expression. Furthermore, analysis of these tumors by using follow-up survival data identified differential methylation of islands proximal to genes involved in Cell Cycle and Proliferation (Ki-67, UBE2C, KIF2C, HDAC4), angiogenesis (VEGF, BTG1, KLF5), cell fate commitment (SPRY1, OLIG2, LHX2 and LHX5) as having prognostic value independent of subtypes and other clinical factors.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Medicine
- Cancer Research