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Oncogene. 2007 Jan 4;26(1):77-90. Epub 2006 Jun 26.

5-Aza-2'-deoxycytidine-mediated reductions in G9A histone methyltransferase and histone H3 K9 di-methylation levels are linked to tumor suppressor gene reactivation.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85724-5024, USA.


The epigenetic silencing of tumor suppressor genes is a common event during carcinogenesis, and often involves aberrant DNA methylation and histone modification of gene regulatory regions, resulting in the formation of a transcriptionally repressive chromatin state. Two examples include the antimetastatic, tumor suppressor genes, desmocollin 3 (DSC3) and MASPIN, which are frequently silenced in this manner in human breast cancer. Treatment of the breast tumor cell lines MDA-MB-231 and UACC 1179 with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5-aza-CdR) induced transcriptional reactivation of both genes in a dose-dependent manner. Importantly, DSC3 and MASPIN reactivation was closely and consistently linked with significant decreases in promoter H3 K9 di-methylation. Moreover, 5-aza-CdR treatment also resulted in global decreases in H3 K9 di-methylation, an effect that was linked to its ability to mediate dose-dependent, post-transcriptional decreases in the key enzyme responsible for this epigenetic modification, G9A. Finally, small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated knockdown of G9A and DNMT1 led to increased MASPIN expression in MDA-MB-231 cells, to levels that were supra-additive, verifying the importance of these enzymes in maintaining multiple layers of epigenetic repression in breast tumor cells. These results highlight an additional, complimentary mechanism of action for 5-aza-CdR in the reactivation of epigenetically silenced genes, in a manner that is independent of its effects on DNA methylation, further supporting an important role for H3 K9 methylation in the aberrant repression of tumor suppressor genes in human cancer.

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