Epigenetic regulation of O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase gene expression by histone acetylation and methyl-CpG binding proteins

Rebecca P Danam, Sherie R Howell, Thomas P Brent, Linda C Harris
Molecular Cancer Therapeutics 2005, 4 (1): 61-9
Transcriptional silencing of the DNA repair gene, O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) in a proportion of transformed cell lines is associated with methylated CpG hotspots in the MGMT 5' flank. The goal of the study was to evaluate the mechanism by which CpG methylation of theMGMT promoter region influenced silencing of the gene. Analysis of histone acetylation status in two regions of the promoter using chromatin immunoprecipitation assay showed that a higher level of histone acetylation was associated with expression in three MGMT-expressing cell lines (HeLa CCL2, HT29, and Raji) compared with three MGMT-silenced cell lines (HeLa S3, BE, and TK6). To determine how the modulation of CpG methylation and histone acetylation influenced MGMT expression, we exposed the cells to 5-aza-2'deoxycytidine (5-Aza-dC), inhibitor of DNA methylation, which strongly up-regulated MGMT expression in three MGMT-silenced cell lines whereas trichostatin A, inhibitor of histone deacetylase, weakly induced MGMT. However, combined treatment with 5-Aza-dC and trichostatin A significantly up-regulated MGMT RNA expression to a greater extent than in cells treated with either agent alone suggesting that histone deacetylation plays a role in MGMT silencing but that CpG methylation has a dominant effect. Consistent with enhanced MGMT expression, 5-Aza-dC increased the association of acetylated histone H3 and H4 bound to the MGMT promoter. Chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis of methyl-CpG binding domain containing proteins detected a greater amount of MeCP2, MBD1, and CAF-1 bound to the MGMT promoter in MGMT-silenced cells. Our findings implicate specific MBD proteins in methylation-mediated transcriptional silencing of MGMT.

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