Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common soft tissue sarcoma of childhood and adolescence. Despite advances in therapy, patients with histological variant of rhabdomyosarcoma known as alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS) have a 5-year survival of less than 30%. Caveolin-1 (CAV1), encoding the structural component of cellular caveolae, is a suggested tumor suppressor gene involved in cell signaling. In the present study we report that compared to other forms of rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) CAV1 expression is either undetectable or very low in ARMS cell lines and tumor samples. DNA methylation analysis of the promoter region and azacytidine-induced re-expression suggest the involvement of epigenetic mechanisms in the silencing of CAV1. Reintroduction of CAV1 in three of these cell lines impairs their clonogenic capacity and promotes features of muscular differentiation. In vitro, CAV1-expressing cells show high expression of Caveolin-3 (CAV3), a muscular differentiation marker. Blockade of MAPK signaling is also observed. In vivo, CAV1-expressing xenografts show growth delay, features of muscular differentiation and increased cell death. In summary, our results suggest that CAV1 could function as a potent tumor suppressor in ARMS tumors. Inhibition of CAV1 function therefore, could contribute to aberrant cell proliferation, leading to ARMS development.
In differentiated cells, aging is associated with hypermethylation of DNA regions enriched in repressive histone posttranslational modifications. However, the chromatin marks associated with changes in DNA methylation in adult stem cells during lifetime are still largely unknown. Here, DNA methylation profiling of mesenchymal stem cells obtained from individuals aged 2 to 92 identified 18735 hypermethylated and 45407 hypomethylated CpG sites associated with aging. As in differentiated cells, hypermethylated sequences were enriched in chromatin repressive marks. Most importantly, hypomethylated CpG sites were strongly enriched in the active chromatin mark H3K4me1 in stem and differentiated cells, suggesting this is a cell type-independent chromatin signature of DNA hypomethylation during aging. Analysis of scedasticity showed that interindividual variability of DNA methylation increased during aging in MSCs and differentiated cells, providing a new avenue for the identification of DNA methylation changes over time. DNA methylation profiling of genetically identical individuals showed that both the tendency of DNA methylation changes and scedasticity depended on non-genetic as well as genetic factors. Our results indicate that the dynamics of DNA methylation during aging depend on a complex mixture of factors that include the DNA sequence, cell type and chromatin context involved, and that, depending on the locus, the changes can be modulated by genetic and/or external factors.
Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a plastic process in which fully differentiated epithelial cells are converted into poorly differentiated, migratory and invasive mesenchymal cells, and it has been related to the metastasis potential of tumors. This is a reversible process and cells can also eventually undergo mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition. The existence of a dynamic EMT process suggests the involvement of epigenetic shifts in the phenotype. Herein, we obtained the DNA methylomes at single-base resolution of Madin-Darby canine kidney cells undergoing EMT and translated the identified differentially methylated regions to human breast cancer cells undergoing a gain of migratory and invasive capabilities associated with the EMT phenotype. We noticed dynamic and reversible changes of DNA methylation, both on promoter sequences and gene-bodies in association with transcription regulation of EMT-related genes. Most importantly, the identified DNA methylation markers of EMT were present in primary mammary tumors in association with the epithelial or the mesenchymal phenotype of the studied breast cancer samples.
-Epigenetic alterations may contribute to the development of atherosclerosis. In particular, DNA methylation, a reversible and highly regulated DNA modification, could influence disease onset and progression since it functions as an effector for environmental influences, including diet and lifestyle, both of which are risk factors for cardiovascular diseases.
Genomic imprinting is the epigenetic process that results in monoallelic expression of genes depending on parental origin. These genes are known to be critical for placental development and fetal growth in mammals. Aberrant epigenetic profiles at imprinted loci, such as DNA methylation defects, are surprisingly rare in pregnancies with compromised fetal growth, while variations in transcriptional output from the expressed alleles of imprinted genes are more commonly reported in pregnancies complicated with intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). To determine if PLAGL1 and HYMAI, two imprinted transcripts deregulated in Transient Neonatal Diabetes Mellitus, are involved in non-syndromic IUGR we compared the expression and DNA methylation levels in a large cohort of placental biopsies from IUGR and uneventful pregnancies. This revealed that despite appropriate maternal methylation at the shared PLAGL1/HYMAI promoter, there was a loss of correlation between PLAGL1 and HYMAI expression in IUGR. This incongruity was due to higher HYMAI expression in IUGR gestations, coupled with PLAGL1 down-regulation in placentas from IUGR girls, but not boys. The PLAGL1 protein is a zinc-finger transcription factor that has been shown to be a master coordinator of a genetic growth network in mice. We observe PLAGL1 binding to the H19/IGF2 shared enhancers in placentae, with significant correlations between PLAGL1 levels with H19 and IGF2 expression levels. In addition, PLAGL1 binding and expression also correlate with expression levels of metabolic regulator genes SLC2A4, TCF4 and PPAR?1. Our results strongly suggest that fetal growth can be influenced by altered expression of the PLAGL1 gene network in human placenta.
The cis-regulatory effects responsible for cancer development have not been as extensively studied as the perturbations of the protein coding genome in tumorigenesis. To better characterize colorectal cancer (CRC) development we conducted an RNA-sequencing experiment of 103 matched tumour and normal colon mucosa samples from Danish CRC patients, 90 of which were germline-genotyped. By investigating allele-specific expression (ASE) we show that the germline genotypes remain important determinants of allelic gene expression in tumours. Using the changes in ASE in matched pairs of samples we discover 71 genes with excess of somatic cis-regulatory effects in CRC, suggesting a cancer driver role. We correlate genotypes and gene expression to identify expression quantitative trait loci (eQTLs) and find 1,693 and 948 eQTLs in normal samples and tumours, respectively. We estimate that 36% of the tumour eQTLs are exclusive to CRC and show that this specificity is partially driven by increased expression of specific transcription factors and changes in methylation patterns. We show that tumour-specific eQTLs are more enriched for low CRC genome-wide association study (GWAS) P values than shared eQTLs, which suggests that some of the GWAS variants are tumour specific regulatory variants. Importantly, tumour-specific eQTL genes also accumulate more somatic mutations when compared to the shared eQTL genes, raising the possibility that they constitute germline-derived cancer regulatory drivers. Collectively the integration of genome and the transcriptome reveals a substantial number of putative somatic and germline cis-regulatory cancer changes that may have a role in tumorigenesis.
MicroRNAs usually regulate negatively gene expression and aberrant expression has been involved in development of several types of cancers. microRNAs expression microarray profiling was performed to define a microRNAs signature in a series of mycosis fungoides tumor stage (MFt, n= 21) and CD30+ primary cutaneous anaplastic large cell lymphoma (CD30+ cALCL, n= 11) samples in comparison with inflammatory dermatosis (ID, n= 5). Supervised clustering confirmed a distinctive microRNAs profile for CTCL respect to ID. A 40 microRNAs signature was found in MFt including up-regulated onco-microRNAs (miR-146a, miR-142-3p/5p, miR-21, miR-181a/b and miR-155) and down-regulated tumor suppressor microRNAs (miR-200ab/429 cluster, miR-10b, miR-193b, miR-141/200c and miR-23b/27b). Regarding CD30+ cALCL, 39 differentially expressed microRNAs were identified. Particularly, overexpression of miR-155, miR-21 or miR-142-3p/5p and down-regulation of the miR-141/200c clusters were observed. DNA methylation in microRNAs gene promoters, as expression regulatory mechanism for deregulated microRNAs, was analyzed using Infinium 450?K array and approximately one third of the differentially expressed microRNAs showed significant DNA methylation differences. Two different microRNAs methylation signatures for MFt and CD30+ cALCL were found. Correlation analysis showed an inverse relationship for microRNAs promoter methylation and microRNAs expression. These results reveal a subgroup-specific epigenetically regulated microRNAs signatures for MFt and CD30+ cALCL patients.Journal of Investigative Dermatology accepted article preview online, 18 November 2014. doi:10.1038/jid.2014.487.
Gene expression is dynamically controlled by epigenetics through post-translational modifications of histones, chromatin-associated proteins and DNA itself. All these elements are required for the maintenance of chromatin structure and cell identity in the context of a normal cellular phenotype. Disruption of epigenetic regulation is a common event in human cancer. Here, we review the key protein families that control epigenetic signalling through writing, erasing or reading specific post-translational modifications. By exploiting the leading role of epigenetics in tumour development and the reversibility of epigenetic modifications, promising novel epigenetic-based therapies are being developed. In this article, we highlight the emerging low MW inhibitors targeting each class of chromatin-associated protein, their current use in preclinical and clinical trials and the likelihood of their being approved in the near future.
Endocrine therapies targeting cell proliferation and survival mediated by estrogen receptor ? (ER?) are among the most effective systemic treatments for ER?-positive breast cancer. However, most tumors initially responsive to these therapies acquire resistance through mechanisms that involve ER? transcriptional regulatory plasticity. Herein we identify VAV3 as a critical component in this process.
For better lung cancer diagnosis and therapy, early detection markers of tumor dissemination are urgently needed, as most lung cancers do not show symptoms until extensive metastasis formation has already taken place. Our previous studies showed that in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) early tumor dissemination is associated with a loss of chromosome 4q12-q32 and the presence of disseminated tumor cells (DTC) in the bone marrow. In order to identify the potential target gene in this region, a screen for methylation-dependent expression was performed. Lung cancer cell lines showing a loss of 4q as well as a normal bronchial epithelial cell line as control were treated with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5-aza-CdR) followed by expression profiling. Seven genes within the 4q target region, which have been associated with a positive DTC status before were found to be regulated by hypermethylation. QRT-PCR in an independent sample set identified HERC5 as a potential target gene. Quantitative methylation analysis of these lung tissue samples revealed that HERC5 promoter hypermethylation was significantly associated with positive DTC status (p?=?0.020) and occurrence of brain metastases (p?=?0.015). In addition, hypermethylation of the HERC5 promoter in NSCLC was identified as a predictor for poor survival for Stage I adenocarcinoma patients (p?=?0.022) and also for poor overall survival in metastatic lung cancer patients (p?=?0.028). In conclusion, HERC5 may function as a prognostic marker and is associated with tumor dissemination in lung cancer.
DNA methylation is a central epigenetic modification that is established by de novo DNA methyltransferases. The mechanisms underlying the generation of genomic methylation patterns are still poorly understood. Using mass spectrometry and a phosphospecific Dnmt3a antibody, we demonstrate that CK2 phosphorylates endogenous Dnmt3a at two key residues located near its PWWP domain, thereby downregulating the ability of Dnmt3a to methylate DNA. Genome-wide DNA methylation analysis shows that CK2 primarily modulates CpG methylation of several repeats, most notably of Alu SINEs. This modulation can be directly attributed to CK2-mediated phosphorylation of Dnmt3a. We also find that CK2-mediated phosphorylation is required for localization of Dnmt3a to heterochromatin. By revealing phosphorylation as a mode of regulation of de novo DNA methyltransferase function and by uncovering a mechanism for the regulation of methylation at repetitive elements, our results shed light on the origin of DNA methylation patterns.
1?,25-Dihydroxyvitamin D3 (1,25-D3) is antiproliferative in preclinical models of lung cancer, but in tumor tissues, its efficacy may be limited by CYP24A1 expression. CYP24A1 is the rate limiting catabolic enzyme for 1,25-D3 and is overexpressed in human lung adenocarcinoma (AC) by unknown mechanisms.
A formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) sample usually yields highly degraded DNA, which limits the use of techniques requiring high-quality DNA, such as Infinium Methylation microarrays. To overcome this restriction, we have applied an FFPE restoration procedure consisting of DNA repair and ligation processes in a set of paired fresh-frozen (FF) and FFPE samples. We validated the FFPE results in comparison with matched FF samples, enabling us to use FFPE samples on the Infinium HumanMethylation450 Methylation array.
Noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) control cellular programs by affecting protein-coding genes, but evidence increasingly points to their involvement in a network of ncRNA-ncRNA interactions. Here, we show that a long ncRNA, Uc.283+A, controls pri-miRNA processing. Regulation requires complementarity between the lower stem region of the pri-miR-195 transcript and an ultraconserved sequence in Uc.283+A, which prevents pri-miRNA cleavage by Drosha. Mutation of the site in either RNA molecule uncouples regulation in vivo and in vitro. We propose a model in which lower-stem strand invasion by Uc.283+A impairs microprocessor recognition and efficient pri-miRNA cropping. In addition to identifying a case of RNA-directed regulation of miRNA biogenesis, our study reveals regulatory networks involving different ncRNA classes of importance in cancer.
Pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma (PXA) is a rare WHO grade II tumor accounting for less than 1% of all astrocytomas. Malignant transformation into PXA with anaplastic features, is unusual and correlates with poorer outcome of the patients.
Cancer cells possess aberrant proteomes that can arise by the disruption of genes involved in physiological protein degradation. Here we demonstrate the presence of promoter CpG island hypermethylation-linked inactivation of DERL3 (Derlin-3), a key gene in the endoplasmic reticulum-associated protein degradation pathway, in human tumours. The restoration of in vitro and in vivo DERL3 activity highlights the tumour suppressor features of the gene. Using the stable isotopic labelling of amino acids in cell culture workflow for differential proteome analysis, we identify SLC2A1 (glucose transporter 1, GLUT1) as a downstream target of DERL3. Most importantly, SLC2A1 overexpression mediated by DERL3 epigenetic loss contributes to the Warburg effect in the studied cells and pinpoints a subset of human tumours with greater vulnerability to drugs targeting glycolysis.
Genomic imprinting is the epigenetic marking of genes that results in parent-of-origin monoallelic expression. Most imprinted domains are associated with differentially DNA methylated regions (DMRs) that originate in the gametes, and are maintained in somatic tissues after fertilization. This allelic methylation profile is associated with a plethora of histone tail modifications that orchestrates higher order chromatin interactions. The mouse chromosome 15 imprinted cluster contains multiple brain-specific maternally expressed transcripts including Ago2, Chrac1, Trappc9 and Kcnk9 and a paternally expressed gene, Peg13. The promoter of Peg13 is methylated on the maternal allele and is the sole DMR within the locus. To determine the extent of imprinting within the human orthologous region on chromosome 8q24, a region associated with autosomal recessive intellectual disability, Birk-Barel mental retardation and dysmorphism syndrome, we have undertaken a systematic analysis of allelic expression and DNA methylation of genes mapping within an approximately 2 Mb region around TRAPPC9.
Cancer is as much an epigenetic disease as a genetic one; however, the interplay between these two processes is unclear. Recently, it has been shown that a large proportion of DNA methylation variability can be explained by allele-specific methylation (ASM), either at classical imprinted loci or those regulated by underlying genetic variants. During a recent screen for imprinted differentially methylated regions, we identified the genomic interval overlapping the non-coding nc886 RNA (previously known as vtRNA2-1) as an atypical ASM that shows variable levels of methylation, predominantly on the maternal allele in many tissues. Here we show that the nc886 interval is the first example of a polymorphic imprinted DMR in humans. Further analysis of the region suggests that the interval subjected to ASM is approximately 2 kb in size and somatically acquired. An in depth analysis of this region in primary cancer samples with matching normal adjacent tissue from the Cancer Genome Atlas revealed that aberrant methylation in bladder, breast, colon and lung tumors occurred in approximately 27% of cases. Hypermethylation occurred more frequently than hypomethylation. Using additional normal-tumor paired samples we show that on rare occasions the aberrant methylation profile is due to loss-of-heterozygosity. This work therefore suggests that the nc886 locus is subject to variable allelic methylation that undergoes cancer-associated epigenetic changes in solid tumors.
Epigenetic mechanisms are fundamental for shaping the activity of the central nervous system (CNS). Methyl-CpG binding protein 2 (MECP2) acts as a bridge between methylated DNA and transcriptional effectors responsible for differentiation programs in neurons. The importance of MECP2 dosage in CNS is evident in Rett Syndrome and MECP2 duplication syndrome, which are neurodevelopmental diseases caused by loss-of-function mutations or duplication of the MECP2 gene, respectively. Although many studies have been performed on Rett syndrome models, little is known about the effects of an increase in MECP2 dosage. Herein, we demonstrate that MECP2 overexpression affects neural tube formation, leading to a decrease in neuroblast proliferation in the neural tube ventricular zone. Furthermore, an increase in MECP2 dose provokes premature differentiation of neural precursors accompanied by greater cell death, resulting in a loss of neuronal populations. Overall, our data indicate that correct MECP2 expression levels are required for proper nervous system development.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that regulate gene expression post-transcriptionally. MicroRNAs target about 80% of the protein-coding mRNAs and therefore can be considered master regulators of multiple cellular pathways, contributing to the fine-tuning the cell's most important processes, like the ones involved in cellular growth and proliferation. Deregulation of miRNAs plays a fundamental role in the onset, progression and dissemination of many cancers; therefore impairment of miRNA biosynthesis is an important event in the tumorigenic cascade. MicroRNA synthesis is a multistep regulated process that requires transport of RNA molecules from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. The immature miRNA species that are produced in the nucleus are exported through the nuclear pore complexes via mobile export receptors. Small RNAs such as precursors of miRNAs (pre-miRNAs) are transported out of the nucleus by a specific nuclear transport receptor, exportin-5 (XPO5). Pre-miRNA nuclear export is a fundamental step in miRNAs biosynthesis and its deregulation through inactivating mutations in the XPO5 gene can lead to pre-miRNA nuclear accumulation and disturbance of mature miRNA expression. In addition, it is becoming increasingly evident that mature miRNAs also function as gene regulators in the nuclear compartment. In this review, we will discuss the export of miRNA precursors and its impairment in human cancer as well as the recently described nuclear functions of miRNAs.
Early detection and multi-modality curative treatment for pancreatic cancer remain unsatisfactory due to the insufficient understanding of the mechanisms underlying tumor progression. Epigenetic events, including aberrant methylation of tumor suppressor gene promoter regions, may contribute to tumorigenesis involving both the exocrine and endocrine pancreas. Methylation changes of specific gene promoter regions were examined in 48 resected neoplasms of the exocrine and endocrine pancreas, which were obtained as paraffin-embedded tissue samples. The pancreatic neoplasms included acinar cell carcinoma (n=12), adenocarcinoma (n=18), and islet cell tumors (n=18). DNA methylation was determined with a nested methylation-specific PCR (MSP) technique incorporating an initial bisulfite modification of tumor DNA for the promoter regions associated with 14 tumor suppressor genes. In decreasing order, the 6 most frequently methylated genes were: APC 50%, BRCA1 46%, p16INK4a 35%, p15INK4b 35%, RAR? 35%, and p73 33%. Overall, 94% of the tumors had methylation of at least one gene, and methylation of two or more genes was present in 69% of pancreatic tumors. Pancreatic adenocarcinomas had patterns of gene methylation that differed from pancreatic endocrine tumors. These differences were most notable for the APC and hMLH1 genes.
Epigenetic regulation and, in particular, DNA methylation have been linked to the underlying genetic sequence. DNA methylation quantitative trait loci (meQTL) have been identified through significant associations between the genetic and epigenetic codes in physiological and pathological contexts. We propose that interrogating the interplay between polymorphic alleles and DNA methylation is a powerful method for improving our interpretation of risk alleles identified in genome-wide association studies that otherwise lack mechanistic explanation. We integrated patient cancer risk genotype data and genome-scale DNA methylation profiles of 3,649 primary human tumors, representing 13 solid cancer types. We provide a comprehensive meQTL catalog containing DNA methylation associations for 21% of interrogated cancer risk polymorphisms. Differentially methylated loci harbor previously reported and as-yet-unidentified cancer genes. We suggest that such regulation at the DNA level can provide a considerable amount of new information about the biology of cancer-risk alleles.
The majority of the epigenomic reports in hepatocellular carcinoma have focused on identifying novel differentially methylated drivers or passengers of the oncogenic process. Few reports have considered the technologies in place for clinical translation of newly identified biomarkers. The aim of this study was to identify epigenomic technologies that need only a small number of samples to discriminate HCC from non-HCC tissue, a basic requirement for biomarker development trials. To assess that potential, we used quantitative Methylation Specific PCR, oligonucleotide tiling arrays, and Methylation BeadChip assays. Concurrent global DNA hypomethylation, gene-specific hypermethylation, and chromatin alterations were observed as a hallmark of HCC. A global loss of promoter methylation was observed in HCC with the Illumina BeadChip assays and the Nimblegen oligonucleotide arrays. HCC samples had lower median methylation peak scores and a reduced number of significant promoter-wide methylated probes. Promoter hypermethylation of RASSF1A, SSBP2, and B4GALT1 quantified by qMSP had a sensitivity ranging from 38% to 52%, a specificity of 100%, and an AUC from 0.58 to 0.75. A panel combining these genes with HCC risk factors had a sensitivity of 87%, a specificity of 100%, and an AUC of 0.91.
Rett Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental autism spectrum disorder caused by mutations in the gene coding for methyl CpG-binding protein (MeCP2). The disease is characterized by abnormal motor, respiratory, cognitive impairment, and autistic-like behaviors. No effective treatment of the disorder is available. Mecp2 knockout mice have a range of physiological and neurological abnormalities that resemble the human syndrome and can be used as a model to interrogate new therapies. Herein, we show that the combined administration of Levodopa and a Dopa-decarboxylase inhibitor in RTT mouse models is well tolerated, diminishes RTT-associated symptoms, and increases life span. The amelioration of RTT symptomatology is particularly significant in those features controlled by the dopaminergic pathway in the nigrostratium, such as mobility, tremor, and breathing. Most important, the improvement of the RTT phenotype upon use of the combined treatment is reflected at the cellular level by the development of neuronal dendritic growth. However, much work is required to extend the duration of the benefit of the described preclinical treatment.
Since the discovery of its fundamental involvement in Rett syndrome, methyl CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2) has been the focus of an exhaustive biochemical and functional characterization. It is now becoming apparent that the intrinsic highly disordered nature of MeCP2, which is amenable to a plethora of post-translational modifications (PTMs), allows it to recognize a large number of protein interacting partners, including histones. MeCP2 is highly abundant in the brain and it is an important component of neuronal chromatin; nevertheless, the organization and implications of its involvement in terms of DNA methylation binding dependence and effects on transcription are still not well understood. Recent results have shown that MeCP2 plays an important role in brain development, aging, and in neurological disorders.
Amplification of the EMSY gene in sporadic breast and ovarian cancers is a poor prognostic indicator. Although EMSY has been linked to transcriptional silencing, its mechanism of action is unknown. Here, we report that EMSY acts as an oncogene, causing the transformation of cells in vitro and potentiating tumor formation and metastatic features in vivo. We identify an inverse correlation between EMSY amplification and miR-31 expression, an antimetastatic microRNA, in the METABRIC cohort of human breast samples. Re-expression of miR-31 profoundly reduced cell migration, invasion, and colony-formation abilities of cells overexpressing EMSY or haboring EMSY amplification. We show that EMSY is recruited to the miR-31 promoter by the DNA binding factor ETS-1, and it represses miR-31 transcription by delivering the H3K4me3 demethylase JARID1b/PLU-1/KDM5B. Altogether, these results suggest a pathway underlying the role of EMSY in breast cancer and uncover potential diagnostic and therapeutic targets in sporadic breast cancer.
Axonal myelination is essential for rapid saltatory impulse conduction in the nervous system, and malformation or destruction of myelin sheaths leads to motor and sensory disabilities. DNA methylation is an essential epigenetic modification during mammalian development, yet its role in myelination remains obscure. Here, using high-resolution methylome maps, we show that DNA methylation could play a key gene regulatory role in peripheral nerve myelination and that S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), the principal methyl donor in cytosine methylation, regulates the methylome dynamics during this process. Our studies also point to a possible role of SAMe in establishing the aberrant DNA methylation patterns in a mouse model of diabetic neuropathy, implicating SAMe in the pathogenesis of this disease. These critical observations establish a link between SAMe and DNA methylation status in a defined biological system, providing a mechanism that could direct methylation changes during cellular differentiation and in diverse pathological situations.
The Barcelona Conference on Epigenetics and Cancer (BCEC) entitled "Challenges, opportunities and perspectives" took place November 21-22, 2013 in Barcelona. The 2013 BCEC is the first edition of a series of annual conferences jointly organized by five leading research centers in Barcelona. These centers are the Institute of Predictive and Personalized Medicine of Cancer (IMPPC), the Biomedical Campus Bellvitge with its Program of Epigenetics and Cancer Biology (PEBC), the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), the Institute for Biomedical Research (IRB), and the Molecular Biology Institute of Barcelona (IBMB). Manuel Perucho and Marcus Buschbeck from the Institute of Predictive and Personalized Medicine of Cancer put together the scientific program of the first conference broadly covering all aspects of epigenetic research ranging from fundamental molecular research to drug and biomarker development and clinical application. In one and a half days, 23 talks and 50 posters were presented to a completely booked out audience counting 270 participants.
Genetic screening in Alzheimer's disease (AD) has identified only a handful of genes that are mutated in the disorder. Thus, for a very large proportion of patients, the biology of their disease is poorly understood. Epigenetic alterations may provide an explanation in these cases. Using DNA methylation profiles of human hippocampus from controls and patients, we have identified the presence of promoter hypermethylation of the dual-specificity phosphatase 22 (DUSP22) gene in AD. DUSP22 is a likely candidate gene for involvement in the pathogenesis of the disorder since, as we demonstrate here, it inhibits PKA activity and thereby determines TAU phosphorylation status and CREB signaling.
Wilms tumor 1 (WT1) is over-expressed in numerous cancers with respect to normal cells, and has either a tumor suppressor or oncogenic role depending on cellular context. This gene is associated with numerous alternatively spliced transcripts, which initiate from two different unique first exons within the WT1 and the alternative (A)WT1 promoter intervals. Within the hematological system, WT1 expression is restricted to CD34+/CD38- cells and is undetectable after differentiation. Detectable expression of this gene is an excellent marker for minimal residual disease in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), but the underlying epigenetic alterations are unknown.
Differential methylation between the two alleles of a gene has been observed in imprinted regions, where the methylation of one allele occurs on a parent-of-origin basis, the inactive X-chromosome in females, and at those loci whose methylation is driven by genetic variants. We have extensively characterized imprinted methylation in a substantial range of normal human tissues, reciprocal genome-wide uniparental disomies, and hydatidiform moles, using a combination of whole-genome bisulfite sequencing and high-density methylation microarrays. This approach allowed us to define methylation profiles at known imprinted domains at base-pair resolution, as well as to identify 21 novel loci harboring parent-of-origin methylation, 15 of which are restricted to the placenta. We observe that the extent of imprinted differentially methylated regions (DMRs) is extremely similar between tissues, with the exception of the placenta. This extra-embryonic tissue often adopts a different methylation profile compared to somatic tissues. Further, we profiled all imprinted DMRs in sperm and embryonic stem cells derived from parthenogenetically activated oocytes, individual blastomeres, and blastocysts, in order to identify primary DMRs and reveal the extent of reprogramming during preimplantation development. Intriguingly, we find that in contrast to ubiquitous imprints, the majority of placenta-specific imprinted DMRs are unmethylated in sperm and all human embryonic stem cells. Therefore, placental-specific imprinting provides evidence for an inheritable epigenetic state that is independent of DNA methylation and the existence of a novel imprinting mechanism at these loci.
Dozens of common genetic variants associated with cancer risk have been identified through genome-wide association studies (GWASs). However, these variants only explain a modest fraction of the heritability of disease. The missing heritability has been attributed to several factors, among them the existence of genetic interactions (G × G). Systematic screens for G × G in model organisms have revealed their fundamental influence in complex phenotypes. In this scenario, G × G overlap significantly with other types of gene and/or protein relationships. Here, by integrating predicted G × G from GWAS data and complex- and context-defined gene coexpression profiles, we provide evidence for G × G associated with cancer risk. G × G predicted from a breast cancer GWAS dataset identified significant overlaps [relative enrichments (REs) of 8-36%, empirical P values < 0.05 to 10(-4)] with complex (non-linear) gene coexpression in breast tumors. The use of gene or protein data not specific for breast cancer did not reveal overlaps. According to the predicted G × G, experimental assays demonstrated functional interplay between lipoma-preferred partner and transforming growth factor-? signaling in the MCF10A non-tumorigenic mammary epithelial cell model. Next, integration of pancreatic tumor gene expression profiles with pancreatic cancer G × G predicted from a GWAS corroborated the observations made for breast cancer risk (REs of 25-59%). The method presented here can potentially support the identification of genetic interactions associated with cancer risk, providing novel mechanistic hypotheses for carcinogenesis.
A major problem in cancer chemotherapy is the existence of primary resistance and/or the acquisition of secondary resistance. Many cellular defects contribute to chemoresistance, but epigenetic changes can also be a cause.
The precise regulation of S-phase-specific genes is critical for cell proliferation. How the repressive chromatin configuration mediated by the retinoblastoma protein and repressor E2F factors changes at the G1/S transition to allow transcription activation is unclear. Here we show ChIP-on-chip studies that reveal that the chromatin remodeller CHD8 binds ?2000 transcriptionally active promoters. The spectrum of CHD8 target genes was enriched in E2F-dependent genes. We found that CHD8 binds E2F-dependent promoters at the G1/S transition but not in quiescent cells. Consistently, CHD8 was required for G1/S-specific expression of these genes and for cell cycle re-entry on serum stimulation of quiescent cells. We also show that CHD8 interacts with E2F1 and, importantly, loading of E2F1 and E2F3, but not E2F4, onto S-specific promoters, requires CHD8. However, CHD8 recruiting is independent of these factors. Recruiting of MLL histone methyltransferase complexes to S-specific promoters was also severely impaired in the absence of CHD8. Furthermore, depletion of CHD8 abolished E2F1 overexpression-dependent S-phase stimulation of serum-starved cells, highlighting the essential role of CHD8 in E2F-dependent transcription activation.
Although most cancer research has focused in mRNA, non-coding RNAs are also an essential player in tumorigenesis. In addition to the well-recognized microRNAs, recent studies have also shown that epigenetic silencing by CpG island hypermethylation of other classes of non-coding RNAs, such as transcribed ultraconserved regions (T-UCRs) or small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs), also occur in human neoplasia. Herein we have studied the putative existence of epigenetic aberrations in the activity of PIWI proteins, an Argonaute family protein subclass, and the small regulatory PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs) in testicular cancer, as the PIWI/piRNA pathway plays a critical role in male germline development. We have observed the existence of promoter CpG island hypermethylation-associated silencing of PIWIL1, PIWIL2, PIWIL4, and TDRD1 in primary seminoma and non-seminoma testicular tumors, in addition to testicular germ cell tumor cell lines. Most importantly, these epigenetic lesions occur in a context of piRNA downregulation and loss of DNA methylation of the LINE-1 repetitive sequences, one of the target genomic loci where the PIWI/piRNA machinery acts as a caretaker in non-transformed cells.
Non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a tumor in which only small improvements in clinical outcome have been achieved. The issue is critical for stage I patients for whom there are no available biomarkers that indicate which high-risk patients should receive adjuvant chemotherapy. We aimed to find DNA methylation markers that could be helpful in this regard.
The central nervous system has a pattern of gene expression that is closely regulated with respect to functional and anatomical regions. DNA methylation is a major regulator of transcriptional activity, and aberrations in the distribution of this epigenetic mark may be involved in many neurological disorders, such as Alzheimers disease. Herein, we have analysed 12 distinct mouse brain regions according to their CpG 5-end gene methylation patterns and observed their unique epigenetic landscapes. The DNA methylomes obtained from the cerebral cortex were used to identify aberrant DNA methylation changes that occurred in two mouse models of Alzheimers disease. We were able to translate these findings to patients with Alzheimers disease, identifying DNA methylation-associated silencing of three targets genes: thromboxane A2 receptor (TBXA2R), sorbin and SH3 domain containing 3 (SORBS3) and spectrin beta 4 (SPTBN4). These hypermethylation targets indicate that the cyclic AMP response element-binding protein (CREB) activation pathway and the axon initial segment could contribute to the disease.
DNA methylation is an epigenetic modification involved in regulatory processes such as cell differentiation during development, X-chromosome inactivation, genomic imprinting and susceptibility to complex disease. However, the dynamics of DNA methylation changes between humans and their closest relatives are still poorly understood. We performed a comparative analysis of CpG methylation patterns between 9 humans and 23 primate samples including all species of great apes (chimpanzee, bonobo, gorilla and orangutan) using Illumina Methylation450 bead arrays. Our analysis identified ?800 genes with significantly altered methylation patterns among the great apes, including ?170 genes with a methylation pattern unique to human. Some of these are known to be involved in developmental and neurological features, suggesting that epigenetic changes have been frequent during recent human and primate evolution. We identified a significant positive relationship between the rate of coding variation and alterations of methylation at the promoter level, indicative of co-occurrence between evolution of protein sequence and gene regulation. In contrast, and supporting the idea that many phenotypic differences between humans and great apes are not due to amino acid differences, our analysis also identified 184 genes that are perfectly conserved at protein level between human and chimpanzee, yet show significant epigenetic differences between these two species. We conclude that epigenetic alterations are an important force during primate evolution and have been under-explored in evolutionary comparative genomics.
Patients with ulcerative colitis and Crohns colonic disease are at increased risk of developing colorectal cancer (CRC). The aim of the study was to analyze the methylation status of selected genes as a risk marker for CRC in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients.
DNA methylation patterns are important for establishing cell, tissue, and organism phenotypes, but little is known about their contribution to natural human variation. To determine their contribution to variability, we have generated genome-scale DNA methylation profiles of three human populations (Caucasian-American, African-American, and Han Chinese-American) and examined the differentially methylated CpG sites. The distinctly methylated genes identified suggest an influence of DNA methylation on phenotype differences, such as susceptibility to certain diseases and pathogens, and response to drugs and environmental agents. DNA methylation differences can be partially traced back to genetic variation, suggesting that differentially methylated CpG sites serve as evolutionarily established mediators between the genetic code and phenotypic variability. Notably, one-third of the DNA methylation differences were not associated with any genetic variation, suggesting that variation in population-specific sites takes place at the genetic and epigenetic levels, highlighting the contribution of epigenetic modification to natural human variation.
In the First German-Catalan Workshop on Epigenetics and Cancer held in Heidelberg, Germany (June 17-19, 2013), cutting-edge laboratories (PEBC, IMPPC, DKFZ, and the Collaborative Research Centre Medical Epigenetics of Freiburg) discussed the latest breakthroughs in the field. The importance of DNA demethylation, non-coding and imprinted genes, metabolic stress, and cell transdifferentiation processes in cancer and non-cancer diseases were addressed in several lectures in a very participative and dynamic atmosphere. The meeting brought together leading figures in the field of cancer epigenetics to present their research work from the last five years. Experts in different areas of oncology described important advances in colorectal, lung, neuroblastoma, leukemia, and lymphoma cancers. The workshop also provided an interesting forum for pediatrics, and focused on the need to improve the treatment of childhood tumors in order to avoid, as far as possible, brain damage and disruption of activity in areas of high plasticity. From the beginning, the relevance of "omics" and the advances in genome-wide analysis platforms, which allow cancer to be studied in a more comprehensive and inclusive way, was very clear. Modern "omics" offer the possibility of identifying metastases of uncertain origin and establishing epigenetic signatures linked to a specific cluster of patients with a particular prognosis. In this context, invited speakers described novel tumor-associated histone variants and DNA-specific methylation, highlighting their close connection with other processes such as cell-lineage commitment and stemness.
Latest advances in genome technologies have greatly advanced the discovery of epigenetic genes altered in cancer. The initial single candidate gene approaches have been coupled with newly developed epigenomic platforms to hasten the convergence of scientific discoveries and translational applications. Here, we present an overview of the evolution of cancer epigenomics and an updated catalog of disruptions in epigenetic pathways, whose misregulation can culminate in cancer. The creation of these basic mutational catalogs in cell lines and primary tumors will provide us with enough knowledge to move diagnostics and therapy from the laboratory bench to the bedside.
DNA methylation is implicated in mammalian brain development and plasticity underlying learning and memory. We report the genome-wide composition, patterning, cell specificity, and dynamics of DNA methylation at single-base resolution in human and mouse frontal cortex throughout their lifespan. Widespread methylome reconfiguration occurs during fetal to young adult development, coincident with synaptogenesis. During this period, highly conserved non-CG methylation (mCH) accumulates in neurons, but not glia, to become the dominant form of methylation in the human neuronal genome. Moreover, we found an mCH signature that identifies genes escaping X-chromosome inactivation. Last, whole-genome single-base resolution 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (hmC) maps revealed that hmC marks fetal brain cell genomes at putative regulatory regions that are CG-demethylated and activated in the adult brain and that CG demethylation at these hmC-poised loci depends on Tet2 activity.
Personalized medicine is defined by therapy decisions tailored to individual patients, aiming to improve therapeutic efficiencies and to minimize side effects. The current clinical practice includes targeted therapies for disease-related alterations and molecular biomarker-based patient stratification. However, recent advances in screening technologies have enabled more comprehensive identification strategies and suggest a plethora of additional valuable biomarkers and druggable molecules for future clinical applications. Beside genetic alterations, in particular, DNA methylation biomarkers emerge into the field by presenting stable DNA modifications with predictive potential for drug treatment efficiencies, especially in a cancer context. Although not directly affecting the genetic code, DNA methylation exhibits regulatory functions with high impact on disease onset and progression. In this article, the authors summarize the current knowledge of DNA methylation biomarkers for treatment efficiencies and evaluate their translational value into clinical use.
DNA methylation biomarkers for noninvasive diagnosis of colorectal cancer (CRC) and precursor lesions have been extensively studied. Different panels have been reported attempting to improve current protocols in clinical practice, although no definite biomarkers have been established. In the present study, we have examined patient biopsies starting from a comprehensive analysis of DNA methylation differences between paired normal and tumor samples in known cancer-related genes aiming to select the best performing candidates informative for CRC diagnosis in stool samples. Five selected markers were considered for subsequent analyses in independent biologic cohorts and in silico data sets. Among the five selected genes, three of them (AGTR1, WNT2 and SLIT2) were validated in stool DNA of affected patients with a detection sensitivity of 78% [95% confidence interval (CI), 56%-89%]. As a reference, DNA methylation of VIM and SEPT9 was evaluated in a subset of stool samples yielding sensitivities of 55% and 20%, respectively. Moreover, our panel may complement histologic and endoscopic diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)-associated neoplasia, as it was also efficient detecting aberrant DNA methylation in non-neoplastic tissue samples from affected patients. This novel panel of specific methylation markers can be useful for early diagnosis of CRC using stool DNA and may help in the follow-up of high-risk patients with IBD.
In this issue of Cancer Cell, Béguelin and colleagues highlight EZH2 as an essential regulator for B cell activation and report an addiction of germinal center-derived neoplasms to EZH2 activity. This reversible process is specifically targetable and hence presents high translational value for lymphoma therapy.
Patient stratification according to drug responses, together with the discovery of novel antitumor targets, is leading to a new era of personalized cancer treatments. With the aim of identifying emerging pathways and the challenges faced by clinicians during clinical trials, the IDIBELL Cancer Conference on Personalized Cancer Medicine took place in Barcelona on December 3-4, 2012. This conference brought together speakers working in different areas of cancer research (epigenetics, metabolism and the mTOR pathway, cell death and the immune system, clinical oncology) to discuss the latest developments in personalized cancer medicine.
Mecp2 is a transcriptional repressor protein that is mutated in Rett syndrome, a neurodevelopmental disorder that is the second most common cause of mental retardation in women. It has been shown that the loss of the Mecp2 protein in Rett syndrome cells alters the transcriptional silencing of coding genes and microRNAs. Herein, we have studied the impact of Mecp2 impairment in a Rett syndrome mouse model on the global transcriptional patterns of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs). Using a microarray platform that assesses 41,232 unique lncRNA transcripts, we have identified the aberrant lncRNA transcriptome that is present in the brain of Rett syndrome mice. The study of the most relevant lncRNAs altered in the assay highlighted the upregulation of the AK081227 and AK087060 transcripts in Mecp2-null mice brains. Chromatin immunoprecipitation demonstrated the Mecp2 occupancy in the 5-end genomic loci of the described lncRNAs and its absence in Rett syndrome mice. Most importantly, we were able to show that the overexpression of AK081227 mediated by the Mecp2 loss was associated with the downregulation of its host coding protein gene, the gamma-aminobutyric acid receptor subunit Rho 2 (Gabrr2). Overall, our findings indicate that the transcriptional dysregulation of lncRNAs upon Mecp2 loss contributes to the neurological phenotype of Rett syndrome and highlights the complex interaction between ncRNAs and coding-RNAs.
MeCP2 is a methyl-CpG-binding protein that is a main component of brain chromatin in vertebrates. In vitro studies have determined that in addition to its specific methyl-CpG-binding domain (MBD) MeCP2 also has several chromatin association domains. However, the specific interactions of MeCP2 with methylated or non-methylated chromatin regions and the structural characteristics of the resulting DNA associations in vivo remain poorly understood. We analysed the role of the MBD in MeCP2-chromatin associations in vivo using an MeCP2 mutant Rett syndrome mouse model (Mecp2(tm1.1Jae)) in which exon 3 deletion results in an N-terminal truncation of the protein, including most of the MBD. Our results show that in mutant mice, the truncated form of MeCP2 (?MeCP2) is expressed in different regions of the brain and liver, albeit at 50% of its wild-type (wt) counterpart. In contrast to the punctate nuclear distribution characteristic of wt MeCP2, ?MeCP2 exhibits both diffuse nuclear localization and a substantial retention in the cytoplasm, suggesting a dysfunction of nuclear transport. In mutant brain tissue, neuronal nuclei are smaller, and ?MeCP2 chromatin is digested faster by nucleases, producing a characteristic nuclease-resistant dinucleosome. Although a fraction of ?MeCP2 is found associated with nucleosomes, its interaction with chromatin is transient and weak. Thus, our results unequivocally demonstrate that in vivo the MBD of MeCP2 together with its adjacent region in the N-terminal domain are critical for the proper interaction of the protein with chromatin, which cannot be replaced by any other of its protein domains.
Epigenetics is devoted to the study of molecular mechanisms that can modify the structure of the chromatin fiber and, in that way, regulate large-scale patterns of gene transcription. In mammals, most molecular mechanisms that are considered epigenetic have key roles during development and in adult cells and tissues, and have been implicated in a number of human diseases, including cancer. Here, we outline a brief overview on the contribution of the mouse model system to the emergence of epigenetics as a research field on its own.
O(6)-methylguanine-DNA-methyltransferase (MGMT) is a DNA repair protein removing mutagenic and cytotoxic adducts from O(6)-guanine in DNA. Approximately 40% of colorectal cancers (CRC) display MGMT deficiency due to the promoter hypermethylation leading to silencing of the gene. Alkylating agents, such as dacarbazine, exert their antitumor activity by DNA methylation at the O(6)-guanine site, inducing base pair mismatch; therefore, activity of dacarbazine could be enhanced in CRCs lacking MGMT. We conducted a phase II study with dacarbazine in CRCs who had failed standard therapies (oxaliplatin, irinotecan, fluoropyrimidines, and cetuximab or panitumumab if KRAS wild-type).
In cancer, the overall patterns of epigenetic marks are severely distorted from the corresponding normal cell type. It is now well established that these changes can contribute to cancer development through inactivation of tumor suppressor genes and, conversely, through activation of oncogenes. Recent technological advances have enabled epigenome-wide analyses of cancers that are yielding unexpected findings. The study of cancer epigenetics holds great promise for expanding the range of therapeutic opportunities for personalized medicine. Here, we focus on DNA methylation in breast cancer and the potential implications for clinical management of patients.
The orchestrated organization of epigenetic factors that control chromatin dynamism, including DNA methylation, histone marks, non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) and chromatin-remodeling proteins, is essential for the proper function of tissue homeostasis, cell identity and development. Indeed, deregulation of epigenetic profiles has been described in several human pathologies, including complex diseases (such as cancer, cardiovascular and neurological diseases), metabolic pathologies (type 2 diabetes and obesity) and imprinting disorders. Over the last decade it has become increasingly clear that mutations of genes involved in epigenetic mechanism, such as DNA methyltransferases, methyl-binding domain proteins, histone deacetylases, histone methylases and members of the SWI/SNF family of chromatin remodelers are linked to human disorders, including Immunodeficiency Centromeric instability Facial syndrome 1, Rett syndrome, Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, Sotos syndrome or alpha-thalassemia/mental retardation X-linked syndrome, among others. As new members of the epigenetic machinery are described, the number of human syndromes associated with epigenetic alterations increases. As recent examples, mutations of histone demethylases and members of the non-coding RNA machinery have recently been associated with Kabuki syndrome, Claes-Jensen X-linked mental retardation syndrome and Goiter syndrome. In this review, we describe the variety of germline mutations of epigenetic modifiers that are known to be associated with human disorders, and discuss the therapeutic potential of epigenetic drugs as palliative care strategies in the treatment of such disorders.
Ras association (RalGDS/AF-6) domain family member 2 (RASSF2) is a gene involved in the progression of several human cancers, including breast, colorectal and lung cancer. The aims of this study were to determine the hypermethylation of the gene in squamous cervical cancer and precursor lesions, along with that of RASSF1 and the recently described EPB41L3, and to analyze the potential prognostic role of these genes. Methylation-specific PCR and bisulfite sequencing were used to analyze the methylation status of RASSF2 and EPB41L3 gene in 60 squamous cervical cancer, 76 cervical intraepithelial neoplasias grade III, 16 grade II, 14 grade I and 13 cases of normal tissue adjacent to cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. RASSF2 expression was evaluated by immunohistochemistry and the re-expression of RASSF2 and EPB41L3 was analyzed by quantitative reverse-transcription PCR in HeLa, SiHa, C33A and A431 cell lines treated with 5-aza-2-deoxycytidine and/or trichostatin. RASSF1 hypermethylation and human papillomavirus type were also analyzed in all the cases by methylation-specific PCR and reverse line blot, respectively. RASSF2 hypermethylation was predominant in squamous cervical cancer (60.9%) compared with cervical intraepithelial neoplasias (4.2%) and was associated with a lower level of RASSF2 expression and vascular invasion in squamous cervical cancer. EPB41L3 and RASSF1 hypermethylations were also more frequent in cancer than in precursor lesions. Patients with RASSF2 hypermethylation had shorter survival time, independent of tumor stage (hazard ratio: 6.0; 95% confidence interval: 1.5-24.5). Finally, the expressions of RASSF2 and EPB41L3 were restored in several cell lines treated with 5-aza-2-deoxycytidine. Taken together, our results suggest that RASSF2 potentially functions as a new tumor-suppressor gene that is inactivated through hypermethylation in cervical cancer and is related to the bad prognosis of these patients.
BACKGROUND: Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection is a well characterized etiopathogenic factor for a variety of immune-related conditions, including lymphomas, lymphoproliferative disorders and autoimmune diseases. EBV-mediated transformation of resting B cells to proliferating lymphoblastoid cells occurs in early stages of infection and is an excellent model for investigating the mechanisms associated with acquisition of unlimited growth. RESULTS: We investigated the effects of experimental EBV infection of B cells on DNA methylation profiles by using high-throughput analysis. Remarkably, we observed hypomethylation of around 250 genes, but no hypermethylation. Hypomethylation did not occur at repetitive sequences, consistent with the absence of genomic instability in lymphoproliferative cells. Changes in methylation only occurred after cell divisions started, without the participation of the active demethylation machinery, and were concomitant with acquisition by B cells of the ability to proliferate. Gene Ontology analysis, expression profiling, and high-throughput analysis of the presence of transcription factor binding motifs and occupancy revealed that most genes undergoing hypomethylation are active and display the presence of NF-?B p65 and other B cell-specific transcription factors. Promoter hypomethylation was associated with upregulation of genes relevant for the phenotype of proliferating lymphoblasts. Interestingly, pharmacologically induced demethylation increased the efficiency of transformation of resting B cells to lymphoblastoid cells, consistent with productive cooperation between hypomethylation and lymphocyte proliferation. CONCLUSIONS: Our data provide novel clues on the role of the B cell transcription program leading to DNA methylation changes, which we find to be key to the EBV-associated conversion of resting B cells to proliferating lymphoblasts.
Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is one of the most deadly types of cancer. To date, the best clinical approach for treatment is based on administration of temozolomide (TMZ) in combination with radiotherapy. Much evidence suggests that the intracellular level of the alkylating enzyme O(6)-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT) impacts response to TMZ in GBM patients. MGMT expression is regulated by the methylation of its promoter. However, evidence indicates that this is not the only regulatory mechanism present. Here, we describe a hitherto unknown microRNA-mediated mechanism of MGMT expression regulation. We show that miR-221 and miR-222 are upregulated in GMB patients and that these paralogues target MGMT mRNA, inducing greater TMZ-mediated cell death. However, miR-221/miR-222 also increase DNA damage and, thus, chromosomal rearrangements. Indeed, miR-221 overexpression in glioma cells led to an increase in markers of DNA damage, an effect rescued by re-expression of MGMT. Thus, chronic miR-221/222-mediated MGMT downregulation may render cells unable to repair genetic damage. This, associated also to miR-221/222 oncogenic potential, may poor GBM prognosis.
Cryptic deletions at chromosome 6q are common cytogenetic abnormalities in T-cell lymphoblastic leukemia/lymphoma (T-LBL), but the target genes have not been formally identified. Our results build on detection of specific chromosomal losses in a mouse model of ?-radiation-induced T-LBLs and provide interesting clues for new putative susceptibility genes in a region orthologous to human 6q15-6q16.3. Among these, Epha7 emerges as a bona fide candidate tumor suppressor gene because it is inactivated in practically all the T-LBLs analyzed (100% in mouse and 95.23% in human). We provide evidence showing that Epha7 downregulation may occur, at least in part, by loss of heterozygosity (19.35% in mouse and 12.5% in human) or promoter hypermethylation (51.61% in mouse and 43.75% in human) or a combination of both mechanisms (12.90% in mouse and 6.25% in human). These results indicate that EPHA7 might be considered a new tumor suppressor gene for 6q deletions in T-LBLs. Notably, this gene is located in 6q16.1 proximal to GRIK2 and CASP8AP2, other candidate genes identified in this region. Thus, del6q seems to be a complex region where inactivation of multiple genes may cooperatively contribute to the onset of T-cell lymphomas.
The relevance of the non-coding genome to human disease has mainly been studied in the context of the widespread disruption of microRNA (miRNA) expression and function that is seen in human cancer. However, we are only beginning to understand the nature and extent of the involvement of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) in disease. Other ncRNAs, such as PIWI-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), small nucleolar RNAs (snoRNAs), transcribed ultraconserved regions (T-UCRs) and large intergenic non-coding RNAs (lincRNAs) are emerging as key elements of cellular homeostasis. Along with microRNAs, dysregulation of these ncRNAs is being found to have relevance not only to tumorigenesis, but also to neurological, cardiovascular, developmental and other diseases. There is great interest in therapeutic strategies to counteract these perturbations of ncRNAs.
A new study by Juergens and colleagues provides the first successful example of a combined epigenetic therapy capable of achieving results similar to those of conventional chemotherapy in refractory metastatic non-small cell lung cancer. Furthermore, the authors describe interesting blood-based DNA methylation biomarkers that may be useful in predicting clinical response.
It has been proposed that the existence of stem cell epigenetic patterns confer a greater likelihood of CpG island hypermethylation on tumor suppressor-coding genes in cancer. The suggested mechanism is based on the Polycomb-mediated methylation of K27 of histone H3 and the recruitment of DNA methyltransferases on the promoters of tumor suppressor genes in cancer cells, when those genes are preferentially pre-marked in embryonic stem cells (ESCs) with bivalent chromatin domains. On the other hand, miRNAs appear to be dysregulated in cancer, with many studies reporting silencing of miRNA genes due to aberrant hypermethylation of their promoter regions. We wondered whether a pre-existing histone modification profile in stem cells might also contribute to the DNA methylation-associated silencing of miRNA genes in cancer. To address this, we examined a group of tumor suppressor miRNA genes previously reported to become hypermethylated and inactivated specifically in cancer cells. We analyzed the epigenetic events that take place along their promoters in human embryonic stem cells and in transformed cells. Our results suggest that there is a positive correlation between the existence of bivalent chromatin domains on miRNA promoters in ESCs and the hypermethylation of those genes in cancer, leading us to conclude that this epigenetic mark could be a mechanism that prepares miRNA promoters for further DNA hypermethylation in human tumors.
Owing to their potential for differentiation into multiple cell types, multipotent stem cells extracted from many adult tissues are an attractive stem cell resource for the replacement of damaged tissues in regenerative medicine. The requirements for cellular differentiation of an adult stem cell are a loss of proliferation potential and a gain of cell-type identity. These processes could be restricted by epigenetic modifications that prevent the risks of lineage-unrelated gene expression or the undifferentiated features of stem cells in adult somatic cells. In this review, we focus on the role of DNA methylation in controlling the transcriptional activity of genes important for self-renewal, the dynamism of CpG methylation of tissue-specific genes during several differentiation programs, and whether the multilineage potential of adult stem cells could be imposed early in the original precursor stem cells through CpG methylation. Additionally, we draw attention to the role of DNA methylation in adult stem cell differentiation by reviewing the reports on spontaneous differentiation after treatment with demethylating agents and by considering the evidence provided by reprogramming of somatic cells into undifferentiated cells (that is, somatic nuclear transfer or generation of induced pluripotent cells). It is clear from the evidence that DNA methylation is necessary for controlling stem cell proliferation and differentiation, but their exact contribution in each lineage program is still unclear. As a consequence, in a clinical setting, caution should be exerted before employing adult stem cells or their derivatives in regenerative medicine and appropriate tests should be applied to ensure the integrity of the genome and epigenome.
The discovery of global DNA hypomethylation events in human tumors in the early 1980s and the identification of CpG island promoter hypermethylation of tumor suppressor genes in cancer cells in the mid 1990s opened the door to the current excitement about the contribution of epigenetic disruption to human disease. The recent gigantic advances in technology make it possible to obtain complete DNA methylomes, histonomes, and non-coding RNA transcriptomes for many biological settings and their associated disorders. Furthermore, whole genome sequencing analyses yields an increasing number of mutated epigenetic genes in neoplasia. It is time to sit back, enjoy the show with a little help of friendly bioinformatic tools, and wonder about what will happen next.
The IDIBELL Cancer Conference (ICC) on Metastasis and Angiogenesis was held in Barcelona, Spain, on May 26-27, 2011. The program content was developed by Dr. Manel Esteller, director of the Cancer Epigenetics and Biology Program (PEBC-IDIBELL), Dr. Oriol Casanovas and Dr. Francesc Viñals Canals of the Catalan Institute of Oncology (ICO-IDIBELL), and Dr. Danny R. Welch from the University of Kansas Cancer Center. The topics discussed during the meeting included the latest advances in epigenetic control of metastasis and tumor cell invasion, and molecular mechanisms of angiogenesis and tumoral angiogenesis, and were presented by invited keynote speakers. One issue that recurred throughout the meeting was the increased appreciation of tumor-stromal/microenvironment interactions and how the tumor cells respond to these signals in the cancer dissemination process.
Epigenetic deregulation revealed by altered profiles of DNA methylation and histone modifications is a frequent event in cancer cells and results in abnormal patterns of gene expression. Cancer silenced genes constitute prime therapeutic targets and considerable progress has been made in the epigenetic characterization of the chromatin scenarios associated with their inactivation and drug induced reactivation. Despite these advances, the mechanisms involved in the maintenance or resetting of epigenetic states in both physiological and pharmacological situations are poorly known. To get insights into the dynamics of chromatin regulation upon drug-induced reactivation, we have investigated the epigenetic profiles of two chromosomal regions undergoing long range epigenetic silencing in colon cancer cells in time-course settings after exposure of cells to chromatin reactivating agents. The DNA methylation states and the balance between histone H3K4 methylation and H3K27 methylation marks clearly define groups of genes with alternative responses to therapy. We show that the expected epigenetic remodeling induced by the reactivating drugs, just achieves a transient disruption of the bivalent states, which overcome the treatment and restore the transcriptional silencing approximately four weeks after drug exposure. The interplay between DNA methylation and bivalent histone marks appears to configure a plastic but stable chromatin scenario that is fully restored in silenced genes after drug withdrawal. These data suggest that improvement of epigenetic therapies may be achieved by designing strategies with long lasting effects.
Mammalian DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) is essential for maintaining DNA methylation patterns after cell division. Disruption of DNMT1 catalytic activity results in whole genome cytosine demethylation of CpG dinucleotides, promoting severe dysfunctions in somatic cells and during embryonic development. While these observations indicate that DNMT1-dependent DNA methylation is required for proper cell function, the possibility that DNMT1 has a role independent of its catalytic activity is a matter of controversy. Here, we provide evidence that DNMT1 can support cell functions that do not require the C-terminal catalytic domain. We report that PCNA and DMAP1 domains in the N-terminal region of DNMT1 are sufficient to modulate E-cadherin expression in the absence of noticeable changes in DNA methylation patterns in the gene promoters involved. Changes in E-cadherin expression are directly associated with regulation of ?-catenin-dependent transcription. Present evidence suggests that the DNMT1 acts on E-cadherin expression through its direct interaction with the E-cadherin transcriptional repressor SNAIL1.
Methyl CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2) binds DNA, and has a preference for methylated CpGs and, hence, in cells, it accumulates in heterochromatin. Even though it is expressed ubiquitously MeCP2 is particularly important during neuronal maturation. This is underscored by the fact that in Rett syndrome, a neurological disease, 80% of patients carry a mutation in the MECP2 gene. Since the MECP2 gene lies on the X chromosome and is subjected to X chromosome inactivation, affected patients are usually chimeric for wild type and mutant MeCP2. Here, we present the generation and characterization of the first rat monoclonal MeCP2 specific antibodies as well as mouse monoclonal antibodies and a rabbit polyclonal antibody. We demonstrate that our antibodies are suitable for immunoblotting, (chromatin) immunoprecipitation and immunofluorescence of endogenous and ectopically expressed MeCP2. Epitope mapping revealed that most of the MeCP2 monoclonal antibodies recognize the C-terminal domain and one the N-terminal domain of MeCP2. Using slot blot analysis, we determined a high sensitivity of all antibodies, detecting amounts as low as 1 ng of MeCP2 protein. Moreover, the antibodies recognize MeCP2 from different species, including human, mouse, rat and pig. Lastly, we have validated their use by analyzing and quantifying X chromosome inactivation skewing using brain tissue of MeCP2 heterozygous null female mice. The new MeCP2 specific monoclonal antibodies described here perform well in a large variety of immunological applications making them a very valuable set of tools for studies of MeCP2 pathophysiology in situ and in vitro.
Many studies have shown that microRNA expression in cancer may be regulated by epigenetic events. Recently, we found that in lung cancer miR-212 was strongly down-regulated. However, mechanisms involved in the regulation of miR-212 expression are unknown. Therefore, we addressed this point by investigating the molecular mechanisms of miR-212 silencing in lung cancer. We identified histone modifications rather than DNA hypermethylation as epigenetic events that regulate miR-212 levels in NSCLC. Moreover, we found that miR-212 silencing in vivo is closely associated with the severity of the disease.
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