Mechanism of methylation gene reactivation in human cancer cells

Jiali Si, The University of Texas Grad. Sch. of Biomed. Sci. at Houston


Epigenetic silencing of tumor suppressor genes by DNA hypermethylation at promoter regions is a common event in carcinogenesis and tumor progression. Abrogation of methylation and reversal of epigenetic silencing is a very potent way in cancer treatment. However, the reactivation mechanisms are poorly understood. In this study, we first developed a cell line model system named YB5, derived from SW48 cancer cell line, which bears one copy of stably integrated EGFP gene on Chromosome 1p31.1 region. The GFP gene expression is transcriptionally silenced due to the hypermethylated promoter CMV. However, the GFP expression can be restored using demethylating agent 5-aza-2' deoxycytidine (DAC), and detected by FACS and fluorescent microscopy. Using this system, we observed the heterogeneous reactivation induced by DAC treatment. After flow sorting, GFP negative cells exhibited similar level of incomplete demethylation compared to GFP positive cells on repetitive LINE1 element, tumor suppressor genes such as P16, CDH13, and RASSF1a, and CMV promoter as well. However, the local chromatin of CMV-GFP locus altered to an open structure marked by high H3 lysine 9 acetylation and low H3 lysine 27 tri-methylation in GFP positive cells, while the GFP negative cells retained mostly the original repressive marks. Thus, we concluded that DAC induced DNA hypomethylation alone does not directly determine the level of re-expression, and the resetting of the local chromatin structure under hypomethylation environment is required for gene reactivation. Besides, a lentivirus vector-based shRNA screening was performed using the YB5 system. Although it is the rare chance that vector lands in the neighboring region of GFP, we found that the exogenous vector DNA inserted into the upstream region of GFP gene locus led to the promoter demethylation and reactivated the silenced GFP gene. Thus, epigenetic state can be affected by changing of the adjacent nucleic acid sequences. Further, this hypermethylation silenced system was utilized for epigenetic drug screening. We have found that DAC combined with carboplatin would enhance the GFP% yield and increase expression of other tumor suppressor genes than DAC alone, and this synergistic effect may be related to DNA repair process. In summary, these studies reveal that reversing of methylation silencing requires coordinated alterations of DNA methylation, chromatin structure, and local microenvironment. ^

Subject Area

Biology, Molecular|Health Sciences, Oncology

Recommended Citation

Si, Jiali, "Mechanism of methylation gene reactivation in human cancer cells" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3376900.