The transcription factor activator protein-2α (AP-2α) has recently been implicated as a tumor suppressor protein that can be lost during tumor progression and that exhibits growth-inhibitory properties when overexpressed in cancer cell lines. We now demonstrate that hypermethylation of a discrete 5′ region within a promoter CpG island of the gene is associated in breast cancer with the loss of AP-2α expression. Multiple CpG sites within the island become hypermethylated during breast cancer evolution. However, only hypermethylation of the most CpG-rich region, a small, ∼300-bp area at the 3′ end of exon 1, fully distinguishes neoplastic from normal breast tissue and correlates with transcriptional silencing. In cell culture, silenced AP-2α, associated with exon 1 hypermethylation, is re-expressed by 5-aza-2′deoxycytidine resulting in the restoration of a functional DNA sequence-specific binding protein. In vivo, as detected by a very sensitive nested PCR approach, methylation of the discrete AP-2α exon 1 region does not occur in normal breast epithelium and occurs in only 3 (16%) of 19 ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) lesions, but is present in 12 (75%) of 16 invasive breast tumors (P < 0.001; DCIS versus invasive cancers). Tumors unmethylated for this region expressed AP-2α protein throughout, whereas tumors with hypermethylation showed large areas of loss. Our studies then determine that hypermethylation of a small region of a CpG island correlates with silencing of AP-2α in breast cancer and suggest that inactivation of this gene could be a factor in, and a useful marker for, the progression of DCIS lesions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research