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Cancer Res. 2008 Jul 15;68(14):5546-51. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-1005.

CTCFL/BORIS is a methylation-independent DNA-binding protein that preferentially binds to the paternal H19 differentially methylated region.

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Radiation Oncology Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


The CTCF paralog BORIS (brother of the regulator of imprinted sites) is an insulator DNA-binding protein thought to play a role in chromatin organization and gene expression. Under normal physiologic conditions, BORIS is predominantly expressed during embryonic male germ cell development; however, it is also expressed in tumors and tumor cell lines and, as such, has been classified as a cancer-germline or cancer-testis gene. It has been suggested that BORIS may be a pro-proliferative factor, whereas CTCF favors antiproliferation. BORIS and CTCF share similar zinc finger DNA-binding domains and seem to bind to identical target sequences. Thus, one critical question is the mechanism governing the DNA-binding specificity of these two proteins when both are present in tumor cells. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) in HCT116 cells and their hypermethylated variant showed that BORIS binds to methylated DNA sequences, whereas CTCF binds to unmethylated DNA. Electromobility shift assays, using both whole-cell extracts and in vitro translated CTCF and BORIS protein, and methylation-specific ChIP PCR showed that BORIS is a methylation-independent DNA-binding protein. Finally, experiments in murine hybrid cells containing either the maternal or paternal human chromosome 11 showed that BORIS preferentially binds to the methylated paternal H19 differentially methylated region, suggesting a mechanism in which the affinity of CTCF for the unmethylated maternal allele directs the DNA binding of BORIS toward the paternal allele.

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