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J Biol Chem. 2000 Jan 28;275(4):2727-32.

Methylation patterns of the E-cadherin 5' CpG island are unstable and reflect the dynamic, heterogeneous loss of E-cadherin expression during metastatic progression.

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  • 1Comprehensive Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland 21231, USA. graff_jeremy@lilly.com

Abstract

Metastatic progression of most common epithelial tumors involves a heterogeneous, transient loss of expression of the homotypic cell adhesion protein, E-cadherin, rather than the uniform loss of a functional protein resulting from coding region mutation. Indeed, whereas E-cadherin loss may promote invasion, reexpression may facilitate cell survival within metastatic deposits. The mechanisms underlying such plasticity are unclear. We now show that the heterogeneous loss of E-cadherin expression in primary human breast cancers reflects a heterogeneous pattern of promoter region methylation, which begins early prior to invasion. In cultured human tumor cells, such heterogeneous methylation is dynamic, varying from allele to allele and shifting in relation to the tumor microenvironment. Following invasion in vitro, which favors diminished E-cadherin expression, the density of promoter methylation markedly increased. When these cells were cultured as spheroids, which requires homotypic cell adhesion, promoter methylation decreased dramatically, and E-cadherin was reexpressed. These data show that the methylation associated with E-cadherin loss in human breast cancer is heterogeneous and unstable and suggest that such epigenetic plasticity may contribute to the dynamic, phenotypic heterogeneity that drives metastatic progression.

PMID:
10644736
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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