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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2010 Sep;2(9):a004515. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a004515. Epub 2010 Jul 7.

Chromatin remodeling in mammary gland differentiation and breast tumorigenesis.

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Human Cancer Genetics Program, Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology, and Medical Genetics, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio 43220, USA.


DNA methylation and histone modifications have essential roles in remodeling chromatin structure of genes necessary for multi-lineage differentiation of mammary stem/progenitor cells. The role of this well-defined epigenetic programming is to heritably maintain transcriptional plasticity of these loci over multiple cell divisions in the differentiated progeny. Epigenetic events can be deregulated in progenitor cells chronically exposed to xenoestrogen or inflammatory microenvironment. In addition, epigenetically mediated silencing of genes associated with tumor suppression can take place, resulting in clonal proliferation of undifferentiated or semidifferentiated cells. Alternatively, microRNAs that negatively regulate the expression of their protein-coding targets may become epigenetically repressed, leading to oncogenic expression of these genes. Here we further discuss interactions between DNA methylation and histone modifications that have significant contributions to the differentiation of mammary stem/progenitor cells and to tumor initiation and progression.

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