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BMC Cancer. 2007 Dec 11;7:223.

Coordinate up-regulation of TMEM97 and cholesterol biosynthesis genes in normal ovarian surface epithelial cells treated with progesterone: implications for pathogenesis of ovarian cancer.

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Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA.



Ovarian cancer (OvCa) most often derives from ovarian surface epithelial (OSE) cells. Several lines of evidence strongly suggest that increased exposure to progesterone (P4) protects women against developing OvCa. However, the underlying mechanisms of this protection are incompletely understood.


To determine downstream gene targets of P4, we established short term in vitro cultures of non-neoplastic OSE cells from six subjects, exposed the cells to P4 (10-6 M) for five days and performed transcriptional profiling with oligonucleotide microarrays containing over 22,000 transcripts.


We identified concordant but modest gene expression changes in cholesterol/lipid homeostasis genes in three of six samples (responders), whereas the other three samples (non-responders) showed no expressional response to P4. The most up-regulated gene was TMEM97 which encodes a transmembrane protein of unknown function (MAC30). Analyses of outlier transcripts, whose expression levels changed most significantly upon P4 exposure, uncovered coordinate up-regulation of 14 cholesterol biosynthesis enzymes, insulin-induced gene 1, low density lipoprotein receptor, ABCG1, endothelial lipase, stearoyl- CoA and fatty acid desaturases, long-chain fatty-acyl elongase, and down-regulation of steroidogenic acute regulatory protein and ABCC6. Highly correlated tissue-specific expression patterns of TMEM97 and the cholesterol biosynthesis genes were confirmed by analysis of the GNF Atlas 2 universal gene expression database. Real-time quantitative RT-PCR analyses revealed 2.4-fold suppression of the TMEM97 gene expression in short-term cultures of OvCa relative to the normal OSE cells.


These findings suggest that a co-regulated transcript network of cholesterol/lipid homeostasis genes and TMEM97 are downstream targets of P4 in normal OSE cells and that TMEM97 plays a role in cholesterol and lipid metabolism. The P4-induced alterations in cholesterol and lipid metabolism in OSE cells might play a role in conferring protection against OvCa.

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