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Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2010 Apr;120(3):593-601. doi: 10.1007/s10549-009-0422-1. Epub 2009 May 23.

CpG island methylation affects accessibility of the proximal BRCA1 promoter to transcription factors.

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Department of Medicine, Center for Clinical Cancer Genetics, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, 60637-1463, USA.


To understand the mechanism of transcriptional down-regulation of BRCA1 by promoter methylation, we screened 51 breast cancer cell lines and identified HCC38 as another BRCA1 promoter-methylated cell line in addition to UACC3199. There was low expression of BRCA1 mRNA and BRCA1 protein in both cell lines as measured by quantitative RT-PCR and western blot analysis. After transient treatment with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5-aza-CdR) and trichostatin A (TSA), re-expression of BRCA1 mRNA and BRCA1 protein was detected in UACC3199 cells, but not in HCC38 cells. Another demethylating agent, zebularine, did not induce BRCA1 re-expression in either cell line. To test the hypothesis that methylation of CpG sites may affect accessibility of the BRCA1 promoter to transcription factors and consequently cause down-regulation of BRCA1, we analyzed the binding of four transcription factors (CTCF, Sp1, E2F1 and E2F6) to the BRCA1 promoter using chromatin immunoprecipitation assay (ChIP) and quantitative PCR. CTCF and E2F1 were enriched at the unmethylated BRCA1 promoter in MCF-7 cells. In contrast, these two transcription factors were not enriched at the methylated BRCA1 promoter in UACC3199 and HCC38 cells. Following demethylating drug treatment, E2F1 was enriched at the BRCA1 promoter in the demethylated UACC3199 cells. This indicates that reduced accessibility of transcription factors to the methylated promoter is one of the mechanisms for down-regulation of BRCA1 in heavily methylated cancer cells.

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