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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Aug 1, 1995; 92(16): 7416–7419.
PMCID: PMC41350

Silencing of the E-cadherin invasion-suppressor gene by CpG methylation in human carcinomas.

Abstract

E-Cadherin, a cell adhesion molecule, which plays a key role in maintaining the epithelial phenotype, is regarded as an invasion-suppressor gene in light of accumulating evidence from in vitro experiments and clinical observations. In an attempt to clarify the mechanism responsible for inactivation of this gene in carcinomas, we investigated the methylation state around the promoter region by digestion of DNA with the methylation-sensitive restriction enzyme Hpa II, as CpG methylation of the promoter has been postulated to be a mechanism of transcriptional inactivation of some genes. We found that E-cadherin expression-negative carcinoma cell lines were accompanied by the hypermethylation state, whereas E-cadherin-positive cell lines were not. Furthermore, treatment of E-cadherin-negative carcinoma cells with the demethylating agent 5-azacytidine resulted in reexpression of the gene and reversion of scattered spindle-shaped cells to cells with epithelial morphology. These results suggest that hypermethylation around the promoter may be a mechanism of E-cadherin inactivation in human carcinomas and that treatment of E-cadherin-inactivated cells with a demethylating agent may cause gene expression reversion leading to epithelial morphogenesis with acquisition of the homophilic cell-cell adhesive property.

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