The aim of this study was to develop a new methodology that is suitable for DNA methylation diagnostics and to demonstrate its clinical applicability. We developed a new anion-exchange column for high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) with electrostatic and hydrophobic properties. Both cytosine and thymine, corresponding to methylated and unmethylated cytosine after bisulfite modification, respectively, are captured by electrostatic interaction and then discriminated from each other by their hydrophobic interactions. The DNA methylation levels of synthetic DNA were quantified accurately and reproducibly within 10 minutes without time-consuming pretreatment of PCR products, and the measured values were unaffected by the distribution of methylated CpG within the synthetic DNA fragments. When the DNA methylation status of the FAM150A gene, a marker of the CpG island methylator phenotype specific to clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC), was examined in 98 patients with ccRCC, bulk specimens of tumorous tissue including cancer cells showing DNA methylation of the FAM150A gene were easily identifiable by simply viewing the differentiated chromatograms, even when the cancer cell content was low. Sixteen ccRCC showing DNA methylation more frequently exhibited clinicopathological parameters reflecting tumor aggressiveness (ie, a larger diameter, higher histological grade, vascular involvement, renal vein tumor thrombi, infiltrating growth, tumor necrosis, renal pelvis invasion and higher pathological TNM stage), and had significantly lower recurrence-free and overall survival rates. These data indicate that HPLC analysis using this newly developed anion-exchange column could be a powerful tool for DNA methylation diagnostics, including prognostication of patients with cancers, in a clinical setting.
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