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J Biol Chem. 2006 Jul 28;281(30):21433-44. Epub 2006 May 19.

Crucial roles of Sp1 and epigenetic modifications in the regulation of the CLDN4 promoter in ovarian cancer cells.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology, NIA, National Institutes of Health, Baltimore, Maryland 21224, USA.


Claudins form a large family of tight junction proteins that have essential roles in the control of paracellular ion flux and the maintenance of cell polarity. Many studies have shown that several claudin family members are abnormally expressed in various cancers. In particular, CLDN4 (encoding claudin-4) is overexpressed in ovarian cancer. However, although CLDN4 overexpression is well established, the mechanisms responsible for this abnormal regulation remain unknown. In the present study, we delineate a small region of the CLDN4 promoter critical for its expression. This region contains two Sp1 sites, both of which are required for promoter activity. However, because of the ubiquitous expression of Sp1, these sites, although necessary, are not sufficient to explain the patterns of gene expression of CLDN4 in various ovarian tissues. We show that the CLDN4 promoter is further controlled by epigenetic modifications of the Sp1-containing critical promoter region. Cells that overexpress CLDN4 exhibit low DNA methylation and high histone H3 acetylation of the critical CLDN4 promoter region, and the reverse is observed in cells that do not express CLDN4. Moreover, the CLDN4-negative cells can be induced to express CLDN4 through treatment with demethylating and/or acetylating agents. Because CLDN4 is elevated in a large fraction of ovarian cancer, the mechanism leading to deregulation may represent a general pathway in ovarian tumorigenesis and may lead to novel strategies for therapy and an overall better understanding of the biology of this disease.

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