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Mol Cancer Ther. 2011 Sep;10(9):1611-23. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-11-0140. Epub 2011 Jun 22.

Transformation-dependent silencing of tumor-selective apoptosis-inducing TRAIL by DNA hypermethylation is antagonized by decitabine.

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Department of Cancer Biology, Institut de Génétique et de Biologie Moléculaire et Cellulaire (IGBMC), CNRS/INSERM/Université de Strasbourg, 1 Rue Laurent Fries, BP 10142, IGBMC, 67404 Illkirch CEDEX, France.


TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) kills tumor cells selectively. We asked how emerging tumor cells escape elimination by TRAIL and how tumor-specific killing by TRAIL could then be restored. We found that TRAIL expression is consistently downregulated in HRAS(G12V)-transformed cells in stepwise tumorigenesis models derived from four different tissues due to DNA hypermethylation of CpG clusters within the TRAIL promoter. Decitabine de-silenced TRAIL, which remained inducible by interferon, while induction of TRAIL by blocking the HRAS(G12V)-activated mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway was subordinated to epigenetic silencing. Decitabine induced apoptosis through upregulation of endogenous TRAIL in cooperation with favorable regulation of key players acting in TRAIL-mediated apoptosis. Apoptosis induction by exogenously added TRAIL was largely increased by decitabine. In vivo treatment of xenografted human HRAS(G12V)-transformed human epithelial kidney or syngenic mice tumors by decitabine blocked tumor growth induced TRAIL expression and apoptosis. Our results emphasize the potential of decitabine to enhance TRAIL-induced apoptosis in tumors and thus provide a rationale for combination therapies with decitabine to increase tumor-selective apoptosis.

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