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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2010 Jun 25;397(2):333-9. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2010.05.124. Epub 2010 May 27.

Promoter hypomethylation contributes to the expression of MUC3A in cancer cells.

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Department of Human Pathology, Field of Oncology, Kagoshima University, Graduate School of Medical and Dental Sciences, 8-35-1 Sakuragaoka, Kagoshima 890-8544, Japan.


MUC3A is a membrane-bound glycoprotein that is aberrantly expressed in carcinomas and is a risk factor for a poor prognosis. However, the exact mechanism of MUC3A expression has yet to be clarified. Here, we provide the first evidence that MUC3A gene expression is controlled by the CpG methylation status of the proximal promoter region. We show that the DNA methylation pattern is intimately correlated with MUC3A expression in breast, lung, pancreas and colon cancer cell lines. The DNA methylation status of 30CpG sites from -660 to +273 was mapped using MassARRAY analysis. MUC3A-negative cancer cell lines and those with low MUC3A expression (e.g., MCF-7) were highly methylated in the proximal promoter region, corresponding to 9CpG sites (-345 to -75bp), whereas MUC3A-positive cell lines (e.g., LS174T) had low methylation levels. Moreover, 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine and trichostatin A treatment of MUC3A-negative cells or those with low MUC3A expression caused elevation of MUC3A mRNA. Our results suggest that DNA hypomethylation in the 5'-flanking region of the MUC3A gene plays an important role in MUC3A expression in carcinomas of various organs. An understanding of epigenetic changes in MUC3A may contribute to the diagnosis of carcinogenic risk and to prediction of outcome in patients with cancer.

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