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Oncogene. 2008 Mar 27;27(14):2045-54. Epub 2007 Oct 8.

The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor type 2A is frequently methylated in human colorectal carcinoma and suppresses cell growth.

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  • 1Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Cancer Research Division, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.


N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) are the predominant excitatory neurotransmitter receptors in the mammalian brain. We found that among the three NMDARs examined (NMDAR1, NMDAR2A, NMDAR2B), only NMDAR2A was silenced in colorectal carcinoma (CRC) cell lines at basal line and reactivated by the demethylating agent, 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine. NMDAR2A was expressed in normal colon epithelium, while expression was hardly detectable in colon cancer tissues. Promoter methylation of NMDAR2A was confirmed by bisulfite sequencing and combined bisulfite restriction analysis in the CRC cell lines and primary tumors. Quantitative methylation-specific PCR demonstrated NMDAR2A promoter hypermethylation in 82 of 100 primary human CRC, 15 of 100 normal corresponding epithelial tissues and 1 of 11 (9%) normal colon mucosa samples obtained from patients without cancer. Moreover, forced expression of full-length NMDAR2A in CRC cell lines induced apoptosis and almost abolished the ability of the cells to form colonies in culture, while NMDAR2A knockdown increased cell growth. Thus, NMDAR2A is commonly hypermethylated in primary human CRC and possesses tumor-suppressive activity.

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