Tumor Biology

, Volume 36, Issue 7, pp 5581–5590 | Cite as

DNA methylation and expression of the folate transporter genes in colorectal cancer

  • Sanja A. Farkas
  • Rahel Befekadu
  • Victoria Hahn-Strömberg
  • Torbjörn K. Nilsson
Research Article


Folate has a central role in the cell metabolism. This study aims to explore the DNA methylation pattern of the folate transporter genes FOLR1, PCFT, and RFC1 as well as the corresponding protein expressions in colorectal cancer (CRC) tissue and adjacent non-cancerous mucosa (ANCM). Our results showed statistically significant differences in the DNA-methylated fraction of all three genes at several gene regions; we identified three differentially methylated CpG sites in the FOLR1 gene, five CpG sites in the PCFT gene, and six CpG sites in the RFC1 gene. There was a pronounced expression of the FRα and RFC proteins in both the CRC and ANCM tissues, though the expression was attenuated in cancer compared to the paired ANCM tissues. The PCFT protein was undetectable or expressed at a very low level in both tissue types. Higher methylated fractions of the CpG sites 3–5 in the RFC1 gene were associated with a lower protein expression, suggestive of epigenetic regulation by DNA methylation of the RFC1 gene in the colorectal cancer. Our results did not show any association between the RFC and FRα protein expression and tumor stage, TNM classification, or tumor location. In conclusion, this is the first study to simultaneously evaluate both DNA methylation and protein expression of all three folate transporter genes, FOLR1, PCFT, and RFC1, in colorectal cancer. The results encourage further investigation into the possible prognostic implications of folate transporter expression and DNA methylation.


CpG T-DMR Reduced folate carrier CRC Immunohistochemistry 



colorectal cancer


folate receptor 1


reduced folate carrier


proton coupled folate transporter



This work was supported by Lions Cancer Foundation, Nyckelfonden, and the Research committee of Örebro county council.

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© International Society of Oncology and BioMarkers (ISOBM) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sanja A. Farkas
    • 1
  • Rahel Befekadu
    • 1
  • Victoria Hahn-Strömberg
    • 1
  • Torbjörn K. Nilsson
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Laboratory Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and HealthÖrebro UniversityÖrebroSweden
  2. 2.Department of Medical Biosciences, Clinical ChemistryUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden

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