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Cell Res. 2008 Oct;18(10):1037-46. doi: 10.1038/cr.2008.270.

Promoter hypomethylation regulates CD133 expression in human gliomas.

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Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Pathology, Hokkaido University Graduate School of Medicine, Kita-ku, Sapporo 060-8638, Japan.


Brain tumor-initiating cells (BTICs) have been enriched using antibodies against the cell surface protein CD133; however, the biological relevance and the regulatory mechanism of CD133 expression in human gliomas are not yet understood. In this study, we initially demonstrated that CD133 was overexpressed in high-grade human glioblastomas where CD133-positive cells were focally observed as a micro-cluster. In addition, CD133 transcripts with exon 1A, 1B, or 1C were predominantly expressed in glioblastomas. To elucidate the mechanism regulating this aberrant expression of CD133, three proximal promoters (P1, P2, and P3) containing a CpG island were isolated. In U251MG and T98G glioblastoma cells, the P1 region flanking exon 1A exhibited the highest activity among the three promoters, and this activity was significantly inactivated by in vitro methylation. After treatment with the demethylating agent 5-azacytidine and/or the histone deacetylase inhibitor valproic acid, the expression level of CD133 mRNA was significantly restored in glioma cells. Importantly, hypomethylation of CpG sites within the P1, P2, and P3 regions was observed by bisulfite sequencing in human glioblastoma tissues with abundant CD133 mRNA. Taken together, our results indicate that DNA hypomethylation is an important determinant of CD133 expression in glioblastomas, and this epigenetic event may be associated with the development of BTICs expressing CD133.

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