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J Mammary Gland Biol Neoplasia. 2001 Apr;6(2):183-92.

Role of DNA methylation and histone acetylation in steroid receptor expression in breast cancer.

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Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, Baltimore, Maryland 21231, USA.


DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification that is associated with transcriptional silencing of gene expression in mammalian cells. Hypermethylation of the promoter CpG islands contributes to the loss of gene function of several tumor related genes, including estrogen receptor a (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR). Gene expression patterns are also heavily influenced by changes in chromatin structure during transcription. Indeed both the predominant mammalian DNA methyltransferase (DNMTI), and the histone deacetylases (HDACs) play crucial roles in maintaining transcriptionally repressive chromatin by forming suppressive complexes at replication foci. These new findings suggest that epigenetic changes might play a crucial role in gene inactivation in breast cancer. Further, inhibition of DNA methylation and histone deacetylation might be a therapeutic strategy in breast cancer, especially for those cancers with ER and PR negative phenotypes.

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