Research Highlights: Non-DNA Methylation Related Changes in Renal Cancer Cell

Histologic image of clear cell kidney cancer. Slide courtesy of W. Marston Linehan, National Cancer Institute, NIH.

Original Article:

  • Gene expression refers to how often or when proteins are made using genetic instructions.
  • Epigenetics involves gene expression control by factors not related to the sequences of DNA.
  • Epigenetic changes can turn genes on or off and determine which proteins will be produced.
  • DNA methylation is an epigenetics mechanism of chromatin remodeling that regulates gene expression by recruiting proteins involved in gene repression.
  • Alterations in chromatin accessibility not related to DNA methylation can affect cancer-related gene expression.
  • These types of alteration are often overlooked in conventional epigenetics studies.
  • Researchers examined the DNA methylation and chromatin accessibility alterations in primary human clear cell renal cell carcinomas.
  • The study showed significant deviation to the renal cell carcinoma epigenome, and identified gene expression changes that were specifically attributed to the chromatin accessibility status regardless of the involvement of DNA methylation.
  • The genes identified comprised distinct pathways and more frequently underwent epigenetic changes suggesting that genetic and epigenetic alterations could occur independently.
  • Researchers found unique promoter not related to DNA methylation that alters in pathways imitating tumor suppressor deficiency.
  • The study provides a new approach for identifying new epigenetic-based therapeutic targets, previously undetectable by DNA methylation studies alone, that may go along with the current genetic-based treatment strategies.


Becket, E., Chopra, S., Duymich, C. E., Lin, J. J., You, J. S., Pandiyan, K., Nichols, P. W., Siegmund, K. D., Charlet, J., Weisenberger, D. J., Jones, P. A., & Liang, G. (2016). Identification of DNA Methylation-Independent Epigenetic Events Underlying Clear Cell Renal Cell Carcinoma. Cancer research, 76(7), 1954–1964.

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