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J Biol Chem. 1990 Jul 5;265(19):11389-96.

Altered expression of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan in the stroma of human colon carcinoma. Hypomethylation of PG-40 gene correlates with increased PG-40 content and mRNA levels.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Cell Biology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107.


The connective tissue stroma of malignant tumors is a newly formed tissue that supports the growth and progression of neoplastic cells. Proteoglycans are intrinsic components of this complex structure and molecular changes in this class of macromolecules can significantly affect behavioral properties of transformed cells. We report that human colon carcinoma contained increased levels of a chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan that exhibited an altered glycosaminoglycan structure in which 0- and 6-sulfated units, as detected by specific monoclonal antibodies, predominated. Proteoglycans with such epitopes were localized primarily to the connective tissue stroma surrounding the tumor cells but not to the tumor cells themselves or the native, non-cancerous connective tissue. Analysis of mRNA encoding PG-40, the main chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan of colon tissue, revealed a 7-fold increase in the two transcripts encoding this gene product. This increase was evident whether the data were normalized to total RNA content or beta-actin mRNA levels. The altered steady state levels of PG-40 mRNA did not correlate with any significant gene amplification or rearrangement of PG-40 in human colon cancer. However, when genomic DNA was tested for degree of methylation, the colon carcinoma tissue showed a marked hypomethylation of PG-40 gene locus, a finding that has been associated with increased gene activation. Interestingly, PG-40 gene was also hypomethylated in cultured colon fibroblasts, which express PG-40, but not in colon carcinoma cells which do not express this gene. These results indicate that specific proteoglycan changes occur in colon carcinoma and that these alterations are the product of stromal cells that are topologically associated with and functionally respondent to the growing malignant cells. This is the first evidence that enhanced PG-40 expression in a human malignant tissue is associated with a hypomethylated gene and suggests that the control of PG-40 gene expression may represent an important factor in the progression of colon carcinoma.

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