Anchorage dependent (n=11) and independent passages (n=19) of 4 hrHPV-immortalized keratinocyte cell lines were treated with 2′-deoxy-5-azacytidine (DAC). Genome-wide miRNA expression profiles before and after treatment were compared to identify miRNAs silenced by methylation. Bisulfite sequencing and methylation-specific PCR showed increased methylation of hsa-mir-129-2/-137/-935/-3663/-3665 and -4281 in anchorage independent HPV-transformed keratinocytes and cervical cancer cell lines. Mature miRNAs derived from hsa-mir-129-2/-137/-3663 and -3665 showed functional relevance as they decreased anchorage independence in cervical cancer cell lines. Cervical (pre)cancerous lesions demonstrated increased methylation of hsa-mir-129-2/-935/-3663/-3665 and -4281, underlining the clinical relevance of our findings.
In conclusion, methylation-mediated silencing of tumor suppressive miRNAs contributes to acquisition of an anchorage independent phenotype. This study further substantiates the importance of miRNAs during early stages of carcinogenesis and underlines their potential as both disease markers and therapeutic targets.