The aim of this study was to elucidate the significance of aberrant DNA methylation in gastric carcinogenesis. The DNA methylation status at the D17S5 locus, at which a candidate tumor suppressor gene, HIC-1, was identified, of gastric cancers and non-cancerous gastric mucosae from 42 gastric cancer patients was examined by Southern blotting using a methylation-sensitive restriction enzyme. DNA hypermethylation was observed in 15, 13, 25 and 45% of the tissues showing no remarkable histological findings, chronic gastritis without intestinal metaplasia, intestinal metaplasia and gastric cancer, respectively. The incidence of DNA hypermethylation was significantly higher in gastric cancers than in non-cancerous gastric mucosae (P < 0.05). DNA hypermethylation was often accompanied by allelic loss at the same locus in gastric cancers. DNA hypermethylation at the D17S5 locus, which was even detected in precancerous conditions, including intestinal metaplasia, may play a role in gastric carcinogenesis.
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