Genetic and epigenetic alterations observed at end stage OSCC formation could be considered as a consequence of cancer development and thus changes in normal or premalignant tissues which had been exposed to oral carcinogens such as Dibenzo[def,p]chrysene (DBP) may better serve as predictive biomarkers of disease development. Many types of DNA damage can induce epigenetic changes which can occur early and in the absence of evident morphological abnormalities. Therefore we used ERRBS to generate genome-scale, single-base resolution DNA methylomes from histologically normal oral tissues of mice treated with DBP under experimental conditions known to induce maximum DNA damage which is essential for the development of OSCC induced by DBP in mice. After genome-wide correction, 30 and 48 differentially methylated sites (DMS) were identified between vehicle control and DBP treated mice using 25% and 10% differences in methylation, respectively. RT-PCR was further performed to examine the expressions of nine selected genes. Among them, Fgf3, a gene frequently amplified in head and neck cancer, showed most prominent and significant gene expression change (2.4× increases), despite the hypomethylation of Fgf3 was identified at >10kb upstream of transcription start site. No difference was observed in protein expression between normal oral tissues treated with DBP or vehicle as examined by immunohistochemistry. Collectively, our results indicate that Fgf3 hypomethylation and gene overexpression, but not protein expression, occurred in the early stage of oral carcinogenesis induced by DBP. Thus, Fgf3 hypomethylation may serve as a potential biomarker for early detection of OSCC.
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