DNA methylation is associated with malignant transformation, but limitations imposed by genetic variability, tumor heterogeneity, availability of paired normal tissues and methodologies for global assessment of DNA methylation have limited progress in understanding the extent of epigenetic events in the initiation and progression of human cancer and in identifying genes that undergo methylation during cancer. We developed a mouse model of T/natural killer acute lymphoblastic leukemia that is always preceded by polyclonal lymphocyte expansion to determine how aberrant promoter DNA methylation and consequent gene silencing might be contributing to leukemic transformation. We used restriction landmark genomic scanning with this mouse model of preleukemia reproducibly progressing to leukemia to show that specific genomic methylation is associated with only the leukemic phase and is not random. We also identified Idb4 as a putative tumor-suppressor gene that is methylated in most mouse and human leukemias but in only a minority of other human cancers.
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