MAL promoter hypermethylation was examined in 260 human esophageal specimens using real-time quantitative methylation-specific PCR (qMSP). MAL hypermethylation showed highly discriminative ROC curve profiles which clearly distinguished esophageal adenocarcinomas (EAC) from both esophageal squamous cell carcinomas (ESCC) and normal esophagus (NE). Both MAL methylation frequency and normalized methylation value (NMV) were significantly higher in Barrett's esophagus (BE), dysplastic BE, and EAC than in ESCC or in NE. Among matched NE and EAC samples, MAL NMVs in EAC were significantly higher than in corresponding NE. There was a significant correlation between MAL hypermethylation and BE segment length. Treatment with 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine reversed MAL methylation and reactivated MAL mRNA expression in OE33 EAC cells. MAL mRNA levels in EACs with unmethylated MAL were significantly higher than in EACs with methylated MAL. MAL hypermethylation is a common, tissue-specific event in human EAC and correlates with clinical neoplastic progression risk factors.
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