We studied IGF2 and H19 expression, and methylation status of H19 gene in androgenetic moles and choriocarcinomas. The human placentae were examined similarly as a control. The CpG sites analyzed for methylation covered the 5' portion and the entire coding regions of H19. Although the paternal IGF2 and the maternal H19 allele were exclusively transcribed in full-term placentae, both H19 alleles were active in early placentae of 6-8 weeks gestation. The level of H19 expression in the mole was similar to that in normal placentae, which is compatible with the finding that half of the H19 gene was methylated and the remaining one was hypomethylated en masse in the complete mole. These imply the importance of regulating the level of H19 transcription not only for normal embryogenesis but also for the development of androgenetic moles. Choriocarcinomas were characterized by a low expression of IGF2 and a high expression of H19 with the transcripts being apparently intact in size. Biallelic expression of IGF2 or H19 was found frequently but not consistently in choriocarcinomas. Contrary to expectation, enhanced H19 expression was accompanied by hypermethylation of CpG sites over the entire gene region, apparently being at various with the finding in normal placentae and androgenetic moles. The hypermethylation of CpG sites was also recognized in choriocarcinoma specimens surgically removed. The active H19 allele was unmethylated in placentae and probably so in androgenetic moles, but it was heavily methylated in choriocarcinomas. These findings provide the possibility that the mutated promoter is responsible for overcoming transcriptional suppression by CpG methylation in the H19 gene.
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