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Oncogene. 1999 Jan 14;18(2):385-96.

Hypermethylation of the cell cycle inhibitor p15INK4b 3'-untranslated region interferes with its transcriptional regulation in primary lymphomas.

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Department of Pathology and Kaplan Comprehensive Cancer Center, New York University Medical Center, NY 10016, USA.


The cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p15INK4b has been shown to be involved in human and rodent tumors and seems to act as a tumor suppressor gene in hematological malignancies. Alterations of this gene in tumors include mainly homozygous deletions and hypermethylation of the CpG island in the promoter region. In this work, we describe a new area sensitive to methylation in the 3' untranslated region (UTR) of the murine p15INK4b gene. This region shows different levels of methylation depending on the tissues, being relatively highly methylated in brain and gut, and weakly methylated in liver, spleen or thymus. DNA methylation and expression is similar in both maternal and paternal alleles indicating no imprinting effect. Although methylation of the p15INK4b 3'-UTR is low in normal thymus, increased levels (up to 100%) of specific methylation in this region are found in up to 30% of radiation- or carcinogen-induced thymic lymphomas, correlating with decreased gene expression. Hypermethylation of the p15INK4b 3'-UTR frequently occurs in tumors with loss of heterozygosity (LOH) but without methylation of the promoter CpG island or intragenic mutations. Furthermore, in vitro CpG methylation of the 3'-UTR produces reduced levels of a luciferase reporter in cultured cells. Methylation of two CpG sites in a 120 bp region is sufficient to interfere with transcription of the reporter gene. These data suggest that although the levels of p15INK4b in normal tissues can be mainly determined by promoter regulatory elements, strong hypermethylation of the 3'-UTR can interfere with transcription. Thus, hypermethylation of the 3'-UTR may explain the lack of p15INK4b gene expression in a subset of tumors with no promoter methylation and could be a new alternative mechanism for tumor suppressor gene inactivation in tumorigenesis.

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