The gene of pituitary homeobox 1 (PITX1) has been reported to be down-regulated in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS), of which the cause has not been well addressed. The abnormal DNA methylation was recently assumed to be an important mechanism for the down-regulated genes expression. However, the association between PITX1 promoter methylation and the etiology of AIS was not clear.
The peripheral blood samples of 50 AIS patients and 50 healthy controls were collected and the genomic DNA was extracted. The pyrosequencing assay was used to assess the methylation status of PITX1 promoter and real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to detect the PITX1 gene expression. Comparison analysis was performed using independent t test and Chi-square tests, while correlation analysis were performed with 2-tailed Pearson coefficients.
The mean methylation level was (3.52 ± 0.96)% in AIS and (1.40 ± 0.81)% in healthy controls (P < 0.0001). The PITX1 gene expression was 0.15 ± 0.08 in AIS and 0.80 ± 0.55 in healthy controls (P < 0.0001). The comparative analysis showed significant difference in age (P = 0.021) and Cobb angle of the main curve (P = 0.0001) between AIS groups with positive and negative methylation. The methylation level of 6 CpG sites in PITX1 promoters was significantly associated with Cobb angle of the main curve (P < 0.001) in AIS. No statistical relationship between PITX1 promoter methylation and gene expression was found in AIS (P = 0.842).
Significantly higher methylation level and lower PITX1 gene expression are found in AIS patients. PITX1 methylation is associated with Cobb angles of the main curves in AIS. DNA methylation thus plays an important role in the etiology and curve progression in AIS.