Epigenetic genes regulated by the BRAFV600E signaling are associated with alterations in the methylation and expression of tumor suppressor genes and patient survival in melanoma.
ABSTRACT We have previously reported that the BRAFV600E signaling causes genome-wide aberrations in gene methylation in melanoma cells. To explore the potential molecular mechanisms for this epigenetic effect of BRAFV600E, in this in silico study we analyzed 11 microarray datasets retrieved from NCBI GEO database and examined the relationship of the expression of the epigenetic genes (genes involved in epigenetic regulation) with BRAFV600E signaling, methylation and expression of tumor-suppressor genes (TSGs) in melanoma, and patient survival with this cancer. Among 273 epigenetic genes examined, 12 genes were down-regulated (named DD genes) and 16 were up-regulated (UU genes) by suppression of the BRAFV600E signaling using inhibitors. While the expression of 245 non-DD/UU genes overall had no correlation with the expression and methylation of a set of potential TSGs, the expression of DD genes was significantly correlated negatively with the TSG expression and positively with TSG methylation. Expression of UU genes was positively, albeit weakly, associated with the TSG expression. Overall, no correlation was found between UU gene expression and TSG methylation. Importantly, the expression of DD genes, but not UU genes, was significantly associated with decreased survival of patients with melanoma. Interestingly, the promoters of DD genes contain more binding motifs of c-fos and myc, two BRAFV600E signaling-related transcription factors, than those of UU and non-DD/UU genes. Thus, these results link epigenetic genes to methylation and suppression of tumor suppressor genes as a mechanism involved in BRAFV600E-promoted melanoma tumorigenesis and uncover a novel molecular signature that predicts a poor prognosis of melanoma.