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Genes Dev. 2007 May 1;21(9):1050-63. Epub 2007 Apr 16.

Pharmacologic disruption of Polycomb-repressive complex 2-mediated gene repression selectively induces apoptosis in cancer cells.

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  • 1Molecular Pharmacology, Genome Institute of Singapore, 138672, Singapore.


Polycomb-repressive complex 2 (PRC2)-mediated histone methylation plays an important role in aberrant cancer gene silencing and is a potential target for cancer therapy. Here we show that S-adenosylhomocysteine hydrolase inhibitor 3-Deazaneplanocin A (DZNep) induces efficient apoptotic cell death in cancer cells but not in normal cells. We found that DZNep effectively depleted cellular levels of PRC2 components EZH2, SUZ12, and EED and inhibited associated histone H3 Lys 27 methylation (but not H3 Lys 9 methylation). By integrating RNA interference (RNAi), genome-wide expression analysis, and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) studies, we have identified a prominent set of genes selectively repressed by PRC2 in breast cancer that can be reactivated by DZNep. We further demonstrate that the preferential reactivation of a set of these genes by DZNep, including a novel apoptosis affector, FBXO32, contributes to DZNep-induced apoptosis in breast cancer cells. Our results demonstrate the unique feature of DZNep as a novel chromatin remodeling compound and suggest that pharmacologic reversal of PRC2-mediated gene repression by DZNep may constitute a novel approach for cancer therapy.

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