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Cell. 1985 Feb;40(2):417-24.

5-Azacytidine permits gene activation in a previously noninducible cell type.


We previously reported that silent muscle genes in fibroblasts could be activated following fusion with muscle cells to form heterokaryons. This activation did not require changes in chromatin structure involving significant DNA synthesis. We report here that muscle gene activation was never observed when HeLa cells were used as the nonmuscle fusion partner. However, if HeLa cells were treated with 5-azacytidine (5-aza-CR) prior to fusion, muscle gene expression was induced in the heterokaryons. The genes for both an early (5.1H11 cell surface antigen) and a late (MM-creatine kinase) muscle function were activated, but were frequently not coordinately expressed. These results suggest that the expression of two muscle genes, which is usually sequential, is not interdependent. Furthermore, changes induced by 5-aza-CR, presumably in the level of DNA methylation, are required for muscle genes in HeLa cells to be expressed in response to putative trans-acting regulatory factor(s) present in muscle cells.

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