The chemokine receptor CXCR4 is regulated by DNA methylation in pancreatic cancer

Norihiro Sato, Hiroyuki Matsubayashi, Noriyoshi Fukushima, Michael Goggins
Cancer Biology & Therapy 2005, 4 (1): 70-6
Despite the biological and clinical importance of the interaction between the chemokine receptor CXCR4 and its ligand CXCL12 (SDF-1alpha) in human cancers, little is known about transcriptional regulation of the CXCR4 gene. Although aberrant hypermethylation in cancer has been described typically in genes with tumor-suppressor properties, this epigenetic alteration has also been observed to affect potential cancer-promoting genes. We now demonstrate that DNA methylation influences CXCR4 expression in human pancreatic cancer. Gene expression profiling and reverse transcription-PCR identified a significant proportion of pancreatic cancer cell lines that displayed little or no CXCR4 mRNA expression. Using methylation-specific PCR, combined bisulfite restriction analysis, and bisulfite sequencing, we found the 5' CpG islands of the CXCR4 gene to be unmethylated in normal pancreas, whereas promoter hypermethylation was detected in 45% (9 of 20) of pancreatic cancer cell lines and in 46% (46 of 100) of primary pancreatic adenocarcinomas. There was a significant inverse correlation between methylation and mRNA expression level of CXCR4 (P=0.008) in a large panel of pancreatic cancer cell lines. Constitutive as well as inducible expression of CXCR4 could be restored in methylated cell lines pharmacologically using epigenetic modifying drugs. These findings demonstrate the first evidence for epigenetic regulation of CXCR4 in human cancers, providing new insights into the role of CXCR4/CXCL12 interactions in tumor progression.

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