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Cancer Res. 2006 May 1;66(9):4566-73.

Epigenetic inactivation of Betaig-h3 gene in human cancer cells.

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  • 1Center for Radiological Research and Department of Pathology, Columbia University, New York, New York 10032, USA.


Gene silencing by CpG island methylation in the promoter region is one of the mechanisms by which tumor suppressor genes are inactivated in human cancers. It has been shown previously that Betaig-h3 gene, which encodes an extracellular matrix protein involved in cell adhesion and tumorigenesis, is down-regulated or silenced in a variety of human cancer cell lines. To unravel the underlying molecular mechanism(s) for this phenomenon, DNA methylation patterns of Betaig-h3 CpG island were examined in normal, immortalized, and cancer cell lines derived from lung, prostate, mammary, and kidney. A good correlation was observed between promoter hypermethylation and lost expression of Betaig-h3 gene, which was supported by the data that demethylation of promoter by 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine reactivated Betaig-h3 and restored its expression in Betaig-h3-silenced tumor cell lines. This result was further substantiated by a luciferase reporter assay, showing the restoration of promoter activities and increased response to transforming growth factor-beta treatment in Betaig-h3-negative 293T cells when transfected with unmethylated Betaig-h3 promoter. In contrast, activity of Betaig-h3 promoter was completely inactivated by in vitro methylation. Furthermore, CpG methylation of Betaig-h3 promoter was also shown in primary lung tumors that expressed decreased level of Betaig-h3 protein. These results suggest that promoter methylation plays a critical role in promoter silencing of the Betaig-h3 gene in human tumor cells.

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