Epigenetic signatures of alcohol abuse and hepatitis infection during human hepatocarcinogenesis

Ryan A. Hlady, Rochelle L. Tiedemann, William Puszyk, Ivan Zendejas, Lewis R. Roberts, Jeong Hyeon Choi, Chen Liu, Keith D. Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the second most common cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Deregulated DNA methylation landscapes are ubiquitous in human cancers. Interpretation of epigenetic aberrations in HCC is confounded by multiple etiologic drivers and underlying cirrhosis. We globally profiled the DNA methylome of 34 normal and 122 liver disease tissues arising in settings of hepatitis B (HBV) or C (HCV) viral infection, alcoholism (EtOH), and other causes to examine how these environmental agents impact DNA methylation in a manner that contributes to liver disease. Our results demonstrate that each 'exposure' leaves unique and overlapping signatures on the methylome. CpGs aberrantly methylated in cirrhosis-HCV and conserved in HCC were enriched for cancer driver genes, suggesting a pathogenic role for HCV-induced methylation changes. Additionally, large genomic regions displaying stepwise hypermethylation or hypomethylation during disease progression were identified. HCC-HCV/EtOH methylomes overlap highly with cryptogenic HCC, suggesting shared epigenetically deregulated pathways for hepatocarcinogenesis. Finally, overlapping methylation abnormalities between primary and cultured tumors unveil conserved epigenetic signatures in HCC. Taken together, this study reveals profound epigenome deregulation in HCC beginning during cirrhosis and influenced by common environmental agents. These results lay the foundation for defining epigenetic drivers and clinically useful methylation markers for HCC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9425-9443
Number of pages19
Issue number19
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cirrhosis
  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetics
  • Etiology
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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