The A-kinase anchoring protein 12 (AKAP12) is a kinase scaffold protein with known tumor suppressor activity. Recently, AKAP12 promoter hypermethylation was reported in gastric and colorectal cancers. We examined AKAP12 promoter hypermethylation using real-time methylation-specific PCR in 259 human esophageal tissues. AKAP12 hypermethylation showed highly discriminative receiver-operator characteristic (ROC) curve profiles, clearly distinguishing esophageal adenocarcinoma (EAC) from esophageal squamous cell carcinoma and normal esophagus (P < 0.0001). AKAP12-normalized methylation values were significantly higher in Barrett's metaplasia (BE), dysplastic Barrett's, and EAC than in normal esophagus (P < 0.0000001). AKAP12 hypermethylation frequency was zero in normal esophagus but increased early during neoplastic progression, to 38.9% in BE from patients with Barrett's alone, 52.5% in dysplastic Barrett's metaplasia, and 52.2% in EAC. AKAP12 hypermethylation levels were significantly higher in normal esophageal epithelia from patients with EAC (mean = 0.00082) than in normal esophagi from patients without Barrett's or esophageal cancer (mean = 0.00007; P = 0.006). There was a significant correlation between AKAP12 hypermethylation and BE segment length, a known clinical neoplastic progression risk factor. In contrast, only 2 (7.7%) of 26 esophageal squamous cell carcinomas exhibited AKAP12 hypermethylation. Treatment of BIC and OE33 EAC cells with 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine reduced AKAP12 methylation and increased AKAP12 mRNA expression. AKAP12 mRNA levels in EACs with unmethylated AKAP12 (mean = 0.1663) were higher than in EACs with methylated AKAP12 (mean = 0.0668). We conclude that promoter hypermethylation of AKAP12 is a common, tissue-specific event in human EAC, occurs early during Barrett's-associated esophageal neoplastic progression, and is a potential biomarker for the early detection of EAC.
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