Promoter histone H3 lysine 9 di-methylation is associated with DNA methylation and aberrant expression of p16 in gastric cancer cells

Chun-Feng Meng, Xin-Jiang Zhu, Guo Peng, Dong-Qiu Dai
Oncology Reports 2009, 22 (5): 1221-7
In the course of gastric cancer development, gene silencing by DNA hypermethylation is an important mechanism. While DNA methylation often co-exists with histone modifications to regulate gene expression, the function of histone modifications in gene silencing in gastric cancer has not been evaluated in detail. p16, a well-known tumor suppressor gene, is frequently silenced in DNA hypermethylation manner in gastric cancer. Accordingly, we chose p16 to clarify whether there is a correlation among histone H3 lysine 9 (H3-K9) di-methylation, H3-K9 acetylation, DNA methylation and p16 expression in human gastric cancer. Three gastric cancer cells, MKN-45, SGC-7901 and BGC-823, were treated with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5-Aza-dC) and/or trichostatin A (TSA). We investigated p16 promoter DNA methylation status, p16 mRNA levels, regional and global levels of di-methyl-H3-K9 and acetyl-H3-K9 in four groups: i) 5-Aza-dC, ii) TSA, iii) the combination of 5-Aza-dC and TSA and iv) control group with no treatments. p16 silencing is characterized by DNA hypermethylation, H3-K9 hypoacetylation and H3-K9 hypermethylation at the promoter region. Treatment with TSA, increased H3-K9 acetylation at the hypermethylated promoter, but did not affect H3-K9 di-methylation or p16 expression. By contrast, treatment with 5-Aza-dC, reduced H3-K9 di-methylation, increased H3-K9 acetylation at the hypermethylated promoter and reactivated the expression of p16. Combined treatment restored the expression of p16 synergistically. In addition, 5-Aza-dC and the combined treatment did not result in global alteration of H3-K9 di-methylation. These results suggest that H3-K9 di-methylation, H3-K9 acetylation and DNA methylation work in combination to silence p16 in gastric cancer. The decreased H3-K9 di-methylation correlates with DNA demethylation and reactivation of p16. H3-K9 di-methylation as well as DNA methylation related to p16 silencing is limited to the promoter region. In addition to its effect on DNA methylation, 5-Aza-dC can act at histone modification levels to reactivate p16 expression in region-specific and DNA methylation-dependent manner.

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