Host-cell DNA methylation patterns during high-risk HPV-induced carcinogenesis reveal a heterogeneous nature of cervical pre-cancer

Wina Verlaat, Robert W van Leeuwen, Putri W Novianti, Ed Schuuring, Chris J L M Meijer, Ate G J van der Zee, Peter J F Snijders, Daniëlle A M Heideman, Renske D M Steenbergen, G Bea A Wisman

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Cervical cancer development following a persistent infection with high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) is driven by additional host-cell changes, such as altered DNA methylation. In previous studies, we have identified 12 methylated host genes associated with cervical cancer and pre-cancer (CIN2/3). This study systematically analyzed the onset and DNA methylation pattern of these genes during hrHPV-induced carcinogenesis using an longitudinal in vitro model of hrHPV-transformed cell lines (n=14) and hrHPV-positive cervical scrapings (n=113) covering various stages of cervical carcinogenesis. DNA methylation analysis was performed by quantitative methylation-specific PCR (qMSP) and relative qMSP values were used to analyze the data. The majority of genes displayed a comparable DNA methylation pattern in both cell lines and clinical specimens. DNA methylation onset occurred at early or late immortal passage, and DNA methylation levels gradually increased towards tumorigenic cells. Subsequently, we defined a so-called cancer-like methylation-high pattern based on the DNA methylation levels observed in cervical scrapings from women with cervical cancer. This cancer-like methylation-high pattern was observed in 72% (38/53) of CIN3 and 55% (11/20) of CIN2, whereas it was virtually absent in hrHPV-positive controls (1/26). In conclusion, hrHPV-induced carcinogenesis is characterized by early onset of DNA methylation, typically occurring at the pre-tumorigenic stage and with highest DNA methylation levels at the cancer stage. Host-cell DNA methylation patterns in cervical scrapings from women with CIN2 and CIN3 are heterogeneous, with a subset displaying a cancer-like methylation-high pattern, suggestive for a higher cancer risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)769-778
Number of pages10
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2018

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