Aberrant DNA Methylation of Two Tumor Suppressor Genes, p14ARF and p15INK4b, after Chronic Occupational Exposure to Low Level of Benzene

Iraj Jamebozorgi, Tayebeh Majidizadeh, Gholamreza Pouryagoub, Frouzandeh Mahjoubi


Background: Exposure to benzene would be associated with many diseases including leukemia. Epigenetic alterations seem to be among the main mechanisms involved.

Objective: To determine if chronic occupational exposure to low level of benzene would be associated with DNA methylation.

Methods: Global DNA methylation and promoter-specific methylation of the two tumor suppressor genes, p14ARF and p15INK4b, were assessed employing methylation-specific PCR using the DNA extracted from 40 petrochemical workers exposed to ambient benzene levels of <1 ppm, and 31 office workers not exposed to benzene or its derivatives.

Results: While an increase in global DNA methylation of 5% in p14ARF (p=0.501) and 28% in p15INK4b (p=0.02) genes was observed in the exposed group, no hypermethylation in either of the studied genes was observed in the unexposed group. No significant association was found between the frequency of aberrant methylation and either of age, work experience, and smoking habit in the exposed group.

Conclusion: Chronic occupational exposure to lower than the permissible exposure limit of benzene may still result in DNA methylation of tumor suppressor genes that may ultimately lead to development of cancer.


Benzene; DNA methylation; Genes, tumor suppressor; Tumor suppressor protein p14ARF; Cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p15; Neoplasms

doi: 10.15171/ijoem.2018.1317

 pISSN: 2008-6520
 eISSN: 2008-6814

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