Aberrant methylation and silencing of ARHI, an imprinted tumor suppressor gene in which the function is lost in breast cancers

Jiuhong Yuan, Robert Z Luo, Satoshi Fujii, Lin Wang, Wei Hu, Michael Andreeff, Yong Pan, Mitsutaka Kadota, Mitsuo Oshimura, Aysegul A Sahin, Jean-Pierre Issa, Robert C Bast, Yinhua Yu
Cancer Research 2003 July 15, 63 (14): 4174-80
ARHI is a maternally imprinted tumor suppressor gene that maps to a site on chromosome 1p31 where loss of heterozygosity has been observed in 40% of human breast and ovarian cancers. ARHI is expressed in normal ovarian and breast epithelial cells, but ARHI expression is lost in a majority of ovarian and breast cancers. Expression of ARHI from the paternal allele can be down-regulated by multiple mechanisms in addition to loss of heterozygosity. This article explores the role of DNA methylation in silencing ARHI expression. There are three CpG islands in the ARHI gene. CpG islands I and II are located in the promoter region, whereas CpG island III is located in the coding region. Consistent with imprinting, we have found that all three CpG islands were partially methylated in normal human breast epithelial cells. Additional confirmation of imprinting has been obtained by studying DNA methylation and ARHI expression in murine A9 cells that carry either the maternal or the paternal copy of human chromosome 1. All three CpG islands were methylated, and ARHI was not expressed in A9 cells that contained the maternal allele. Conversely, CpG islands were not methylated and ARHI was expressed in A9 cells that contained the paternal allele of human chromosome 1. Aberrant methylation was found in several breast cancer cell lines that exhibited decreased ARHI expression. Hypermethylation was detected in 67% (6 of 9) of breast cancer cell lines at CpG island I, 33% (3 of 9) at CpG island II, and 56% (5 of 9) at CpG island III. Hypomethylation was observed in 44% (4 of 9) of breast cancer cell lines at CpG island II. When methylation of CpG islands was studied in 20 surgical specimens, hypermethylation was not observed in CpG island I, but 3 of 20 cases exhibited hypermethylation in CpG island II (15%), and 4 of 20 cases had hypermethylation in CpG island III (20%). Treatment with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine, a methyltransferase inhibitor, could reverse aberrant hypermethylation of CpG island I, II and III and partially restore ARHI expression in some, but not all of the cell lines. Treatment with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine partially reactivated ARHI expression in cell lines with hypermethylation of CpG islands I and II but not in cell lines with partial methylation or hypomethylation of these CpG islands. To test the impact of CpG island methylation on ARHI promoter activity more directly, constructs were prepared with the ARHI promoter linked to a luciferase reporter and transfected into SKBr3 and human embryo kidney 293 cells. Methylation of the entire construct destroyed promoter activity. Selective methylation of CpG island II alone or in combination with CpG island I also abolished ARHI promoter activity. Methylation of CpG I alone partially inhibited promoter activity of ARHI. Thus, hypermethylation of CpG island II in the promoter region of ARHI is associated with the complete loss of ARHI expression in breast cancer cells. Other epigenetic modifications such as hypermethylation in CpG island III may also contribute to the loss of ARHI expression.

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