Center for Neuropathology and Prion Research, Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München, Munich, Germany.
Hypermethylation of the DNA repair gene O(6)-methyl-guanine DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) has been linked to prolonged survival in glioblastoma patients treated with alkylating agents. It was aimed to analyze prospectively whether the MGMT status of malignant gliomas could be determined from small-sized stereotactic biopsies (maximum volume: 1 mm(3)). Special attention was directed towards the intratumoral distribution of the MGMT promoter methylation, the MGMT protein expression and potential correlations between both. Twenty-five adult patients were included (20 patients with primary World Health Organisation (WHO) Grade III or IV malignant gliomas, 5 patients with secondary malignant gliomas). About 2-4 biopsy specimens per tumor were collected from different sites within the tumor. Promoter methylation of the MGMT gene was assessed by methylation-specific PCR (MSP) and sodium bisulfite sequencing in each of the collected specimens (overall number of specimens: 69). Both methods were validated for application in small-sized tissue samples (1 mm(3)). The MGMT protein expression was analyzed by immunohistochemistry. The overall MGMT promoter methylation rate was 30% in the de novo group and 80% in the tumor progression group. The success rates of MSP and sequencing were 100% and 80%, respectively. Sequence analysis and MSP exhibited 100% concordant findings. No differences in MGMT promoter methylation were detected between the different samples of each individual tumor in 24 of 25 patients. One false negative result was obtained due to the contamination of the biopsy specimen by necrotic tissue. Tissue samples taken from different sites of each individual tumor (13 tumors investigated) exhibited equal or highly similar MGMT protein expression. No correlation between MGMT protein expression and MGMT promoter methylation was observed. The MGMT promoter methylation status of malignant gliomas can be reliably determined from small-sized stereotactic biopsies. The methylation profile, as defined by MSP and sodium bisulfite sequencing, constitutes a homogeneous marker throughout malignant gliomas. The lack of correlation between MGMT status and MGMT protein expression needs further evaluation.