Epigenetic regulation of gene expression in cancer: Techniques, resources and analysis

Luciane T. Kagohara, Genevieve L. Stein-O'Brien, Dylan Kelley, Emily Flam, Heather C. Wick, Ludmila V. Danilova, Hariharan Easwaran, Alexander V. Favorov, Jiang Qian, Daria A. Gaykalova, Elana J. Fertig

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Cancer is a complex disease, driven by aberrant activity in numerous signaling pathways in even individual malignant cells. Epigenetic changes are critical mediators of these functional changes that drive and maintain the malignant phenotype. Changes in DNA methylation, histone acetylation and methylation, noncoding RNAs, posttranslational modifications are all epigenetic drivers in cancer, independent of changes in the DNA sequence. These epigenetic alterations were once thought to be crucial only for the malignant phenotype maintenance. Now, epigenetic alterations are also recognized as critical for disrupting essential pathways that protect the cells from uncontrolled growth, longer survival and establishment in distant sites from the original tissue. In this review, we focus on DNA methylation and chromatin structure in cancer. The precise functional role of these alterations is an area of active research using emerging high-throughput approaches and bioinformatics analysis tools. Therefore, this review also describes these high-throughput measurement technologies, public domain databases for high-throughput epigenetic data in tumors and model systems and bioinformatics algorithms for their analysis. Advances in bioinformatics data that combine these epigenetic data with genomics data are essential to infer the function of specific epigenetic alterations in cancer. These integrative algorithms are also a focus of this review. Future studies using these emerging technologies will elucidate how alterations in the cancer epigenome cooperate with genetic aberrations during tumor initiation and progression. This deeper understanding is essential to future studies with epigenetics biomarkers and precision medicine using emerging epigenetic therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-63
Number of pages15
JournalBriefings in Functional Genomics
Volume17
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

Keywords

  • Bioinformatics
  • Cancer
  • Chromatin
  • Data integration
  • Epigenetics
  • Methylation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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