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BMC Cancer. 2010 Jun 3;10:253. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-10-253.

Putative tumour-suppressor gene DAB2 is frequently down regulated by promoter hypermethylation in nasopharyngeal carcinoma.

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Department of Anatomical and Cellular Pathology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, PR China.



Human disabled-2 (DAB2), is a multi-function signalling molecule that it is frequently down-regulated in human cancers. We aimed to investigate the possible tumour suppressor effect of DAB2 in nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC).


We studied the expression of DAB2 in NPC cell lines, xenografts and primary tumour samples. The status of promoter methylation was assessed by methylation specific PCR and bisulfite sequencing. The functional role of DAB2 in NPC was investigated by re-introducing DAB2 expression into NPC cell line C666-1.


Decrease or absent of DAB2 transcript was observed in NPC cell lines and xenografts. Loss of DAB2 protein expression was seen in 72% (33/46) of primary NPC as demonstrated by immunohistochemistry. Aberrant DAB2 promoter methylation was detected in 65.2% (30/46) of primary NPC samples by methylation specific PCR. Treatment of the DAB2 negative NPC cell line C666-1 with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine resulted in restoration of DAB2 expression in a dose-dependent manner. Overexpression of DAB2 in NPC cell line C666-1 resulted in reduced growth rate and 35% reduction in anchorage-dependent colony formation, and inhibition of serum-induced c-Fos expression compared to vector-transfected controls. Over expression of DAB2 resulted in alterations of multiple pathways as demonstrated by expression profiling and functional network analysis, which confirmed the role of DAB2 as an adaptor molecule involved in multiple receptor-mediated signalling pathways.


We report the frequent down regulation of DAB2 in NPC and the promoter hypermethylation contributes to the loss of expression of DAB2. This is the first study demonstrating frequent DAB2 promoter hypermethylation in human cancer. Our functional studies support the putative tumour suppressor effect of DAB2 in NPC cells.

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