MGMT promoter methylation status in Merkel cell carcinoma: in vitro versus invivo

Giuseppina Improta, Cathrin Ritter, Angela Pettinato, Valeria Vasta, David Schrama, Filippo Fraggetta, Jürgen C. Becker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Expression of O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) in Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is very variable; thus, we tested whether this may be due to differential methylation of the MGMT gene promoter. Methods: Quantitative analysis of MGMT mRNA and protein expression, as well as MGMT promoter methylation status, was performed in a series of tissue samples of MCC tumors, representing both primary and metastatic lesions, as well as in six MCC cell lines. Results: These analyses revealed a very heterogeneous MGMT mRNA and protein expression in MCC both in vivo and in vitro. However, neither the MGMT mRNA nor protein expression correlated with the sensitivity of MCC cell lines toward the alkylating agent dacarbazine in vitro. Notably, increased methylation at the promoter of the MGMT gene was observed in 2/6 (33%) of the MCC cell lines; however, MGMT promoter methylation was absent in all MCC tissue samples. According to our results, albeit aberrant methylation of MGMT gene promoter can be observed in in vitro propagated MCC cell lines, it seems to be absent or very rare in MCC lesions in situ. Conclusion: Thus, the evaluation of this marker has no or only little significance for predicting response to therapy or for improving efficacy of demethylating agents in the treatment of MCC. Microenvironmental factors may play a role in explaining the different results between MCC cell lines and MCC samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1489-1497
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Epigenetic regulation
  • Merkel cell carcinoma
  • Methylation status
  • MGMT gene promoter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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