Demethylation of the Estrogen Receptor Gene in Estrogen Receptor-negative Breast Cancer Cells Can Reactivate Estrogen Receptor Gene Expression

Anne T. Ferguson, Rena G. Lapidus, Stephen B. Baylin, Nancy E. Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Approximately one third of breast cancers grow independently of estrogen, lack detectable estrogen receptor (ER) protein, and rarely respond to hormonal treatment Previous studies correlated the lack of ER gene expression in ER-negative breast tumor cells with hypermethylation of a CpG island in the 5′ region of the ER gene. In order to determine whether demethylation of the ER gene in the ER-negative human breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-231 could affect ER transcription, cells were treated with two inhibitors of DNA methylation, 5-azacytidine or 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine. DNA from cells treated with either drug became partially demethylated at several methylation-sensitive restriction enzyme sites, including Hhal, NotI, and SacII, within the ER CpG island. This demethylation correlated with reexpression of the ER gene as detected by reverse transcriptase-PCR and production of ER protein as detected by Western blot analysis. ER produced in drug-treated cells was functionally active as demonstrated by its ability to activate transcription of estrogen-responsive genes. These results suggest that DNA methylation of the ER CpG island may play a role in suppression of ER gene expression in ER-negative breast cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2279-2283
Number of pages5
JournalCancer Research
Volume55
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 1 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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