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PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e40955. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0040955. Epub 2012 Jul 18.

Genistein affects histone modifications on Dickkopf-related protein 1 (DKK1) gene in SW480 human colon cancer cell line.

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  • 1Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, United States of America.


Genistein (GEN) is a plant-derived isoflavone and can block uncontrolled cell growth in colon cancer by inhibiting the WNT signaling pathway. This study aimed to test the hypothesis that the enhanced gene expression of the WNT signaling pathway antagonist, DKK1 by genistein treatment is associated with epigenetic modifications of the gene in colon cancer cells. Genistein treatment induced a concentration-dependent G2 phase arrest in the human colon cancer cell line SW480 and reduced cell proliferation. Results from several other human colon cancer cell lines confirmed the growth inhibitory effects of genistein. Overexpression of DKK1 confirmed its involvement in growth inhibition. Knockdown of DKK1 expression by siRNA slightly induced cell growth. DKK1 gene expression was increased by genistein in SW480 and HCT15 cells. DNA methylation at the DKK1 promoter was not affected by genistein treatment in all the cell lines tested. On the other hand, genistein induced histone H3 acetylation of the DKK1 promoter region in SW480 and HCT15 cells. This indicates that increased histone acetylation is associated with the genistein-induced DKK1 expression. The association between histone acetylation and DKK1 gene expression is confirmed by the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA) treatment. In conclusion, genistein treatment decreases cell growth and proliferation in colon cancer cell lines. The effect is associated with the increased DKK1 expression through the induction of histone acetylation at the DKK1 promoter region.

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