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Cancer Res. 2002 Oct 15;62(20):5874-80.

SLIT2, a human homologue of the Drosophila Slit2 gene, has tumor suppressor activity and is frequently inactivated in lung and breast cancers.

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Section of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Division of Reproductive and Child Health, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.


Slit2 plays a vital role in axon guidance by signaling through Robo receptors. Recent evidence suggests that Slit2 protein may function in other settings because human and Xenopus Slit2 has been shown to inhibit leukocyte chemotaxis. SLIT2 protein is a putative ligand for the ROBO receptors. We recently demonstrated that ROBO1 is inactivated by promoter region hypermethylation in <20% of human cancers; furthermore, tumor suppressor activity has not been shown. Thus, the importance of ROBO1 inactivation in human cancer is uncertain. Therefore, we investigated the status of SLIT2 located at 4p15.2 in lung and breast cancers. Although somatic SLIT2 mutations were not detected, epigenetic inactivation was common. SLIT2 promoter methylation was detected in 59% of breast cancer, 77% of non-small cell lung cancer, and 55% of small cell lung cancer cell lines. In these tumor lines, SLIT2 expression was restored by treatment with a demethylating agent. SLIT2 promoter methylation was detected in 43% of breast cancer, 53% of non-small cell lung cancer, and 36% of small cell lung cancer primary tumors. The majority of methylated tumors demonstrated allelic loss at 4p15.2. In addition, SLIT2 expression was down-regulated in methylated breast tumors, relative to normal control, as demonstrated by quantitative real-time reverse transcription-PCR. Overexpression of SLIT2 suppressed >70% of colony growth in each of three breast tumor lines (with either absent or low SLIT2 expression). Because SLIT2 is primarily a secreted protein, SLIT2-conditioned medium suppressed the growth of several breast cancer lines (with absent or weak SLIT2expression) by 26-51% but had no significant effect on a breast tumor cell line that expresses normal levels of SLIT2. These findings demonstrate that SLIT2 is frequently inactivated in lung and breast cancer by promoter region hypermethylation and allele loss and is an excellent candidate for the lung and breast tumor suppressor gene previously mapped to 4p15.2.

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