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J Pathol. 2007 Oct;213(2):131-9.

Transcriptional silencing of hedgehog-interacting protein by CpG hypermethylation and chromatic structure in human gastrointestinal cancer.

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First Department of Internal Medicine, Sapporo Medical University, Sapporo 060-8543, Japan.


Hedgehog-interacting protein (HHIP) was identified as a putative antagonist of the Hh pathway and as a target of Hh signalling. Our aim was to clarify the expression profiles and epigenetic alterations of the HHIP gene in gastrointestinal cancer. The expression and promoter epigenetic status of HHIP in cancer cell lines and freshly resected gastrointestinal cancer tissues were examined using RT-PCR, tissue microarray analysis, methylation-specific PCR, and chromatin immunoprecipitation assay. Cells were treated with the demethylating agent 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine and/or histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A. WST-8 assays and in vitro invasion assays after treatment with HHIP-specific siRNA were performed. HHIP expression levels were reduced in most of the gastrointestinal cancer cell lines and in a certain subset of cancer tissues, and these were correlated with promoter hypermethylation. A heterochromatic structure characterized by neither acetylated H3 nor acetylated H4, and histone H3 lysine 9 hypermethylation and histone H3 lysine 4 hypomethylation was observed in cancer cells in which the HHIP gene was aberrantly silenced. On the other hand, overexpression of the HHIP gene was also found in some cancer tissues and there were significant correlations between protein expression levels of HHIP and those of Sonic hedgehog (Shh), Indian hedgehog, Patched, and glioma-associated oncogene homologue-1. An association was found between lymph node metastasis and HHIP silencing in colorectal cancer tissues with strong Shh expression and between advanced TNM stage and HHIP silencing in diffuse-type gastric cancer tissues with strong Shh expression. Down-regulation of HHIP expression by siRNA resulted in a significant increase in colon cancer cell growth and invasion in vitro. Silencing of the HHIP gene due to hypermethylation and chromatin remodelling appears to be frequently involved in gastrointestinal tumourigenesis.

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