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Plain English summary of "Methylome Sequencing for Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma Depicts Distinctive Features"

Published October, 2015 in Epigenetics

RNA often acts as the messenger that translates information from genes of DNA into what proteins need to be made. Changes in the DNA then lead to changes in the RNA transcripts that next lead to changes in proteins. The sequence of the DNA can change, as happens with the deletion in chromosome 19 leading to the fusion of DNAJB1 and PRKACA in fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma (FLHCC). However, modifications to how the DNA is packaged and labeled can also lead to changes in the RNA and protein; these kinds of changes to the DNA that are not direct changes to the sequence are the focus of epigenetics. Methylation is a specific kind of epigenetic change to DNA where methyl groups (made of 3 hydrogen atoms and one carbon atom) are added to the DNA, typically reducing the RNA transcription of that gene and lowering the amount of protein in the cell.

The authors of this paper studied the epigenetic changes in fibrolamellar and established a FLHCC DNA methylation "signature," meaning a similar pattern of methyl groups on the DNA that is specific to FLHCC. This paper supports that FLHCC is a distinct disease from hepatocellular carcinoma, which warrants a separate treatment plan.

-- Melissa Jarmel, Rockefeller University