The present study was conducted to clarify the cooperative significance of epigenomic and genomic abnormalities during gastric carcinogenesis. Using 21 samples of normal control gastric mucosa (C), 109 samples of non-cancerous gastric mucosa (N) and 105 samples of cancerous tissue (T) from 109 patients with primary gastric adenocarcinomas, genome-wide DNA methylation analysis was performed using Infinium assay. Among these samples, 66 paired N and corresponding T samples were subjected to whole-exome and single nucleotide polymorphism array analyses. As had been shown in our previous study, 109 patients were clustered clinicopathologically into least aggressive Cluster A (n = 20), most aggressive Cluster B1 (n = 20) and Cluster B2 (n = 69). Most DNA methylation alterations in each cluster had already occurred even in N samples compared with C samples, and DNA methylation alterations at the precancerous N stage were inherited by the established cancers themselves. Recurrent single nucleotide variants and insertions/deletions resulting in functional disruption of the proteins encoded by the ABCA10, BNC2, CDH1, CTNNB1, SMAD4 and VAV2 genes were specific to Cluster B1, whereas those of the APC, EGFR, ERBB2, ERBB3, MLH1 and MUC6 genes were specific to Cluster A. MetaCore pathway analysis revealed that the epigenomically affected TWIST1 gene and genomically affected CDH1, CTNNB1, MMP9, TLN2, ROCK1 and SMAD4 genes were accumulated in signaling pathways related to cell adhesion, cytoskeleton remodeling and epithelial-mesenchymal transition in Cluster B1. These data indicate that epigenomic alterations at the precancerous stage are important in gastric carcinogenesis and that epigenomic and genomic alterations cooperatively underlie the aggressiveness of gastric adenocarcinomas.
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