Limited up-regulation of DNA methyltransferase in human colon cancer reflecting increased cell proliferation

Peter J. Lee, Laraine L. Washer, David J. Law, C. Richard Boland, Isabelle L. Horon, Andrew P. Feinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Epigenetic alterations in the genome of tumor cells have attracted considerable attention since the discovery of widespread alterations in DNA methylation of colorectal cancers over 10 years ago. However, the mechanism of these changes has remained obscure. el-Deiry and coworkers [el-Deiry, W. S., Nelkin, B. D., Celano, P., Yen, R. C., Falco, J. P., Hamilton, S. R. and Baylin, S. B. (1991) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 88, 3470-3474], using a quantitative reverse transcription-PCR assay, reported 15-fold increased expression of DNA methyltransferase (MTase) in colon cancer, compared with matched normal colon mucosa, and a 200-fold increase in MTase mRNA levels compared with mucosa of unaffected patients. These authors suggested that increases in MTase mRNA levels play a direct pathogenetic role in colon carcinogenesis. To test this hypothesis, we developed a sensitive quantitative RNase protection assay of MTase, linear over three orders of magnitude. Using this assay on 12 colorectal carcinomas and matched normal mucosal specimens, we observed a 1.8- to 2.5-fold increase in MTase mRNA levels in colon carcinoma compared with levels in normal mucosa from the same patients. There was no significant difference between the normal mucosa of affected and unaffected patients. Furthermore, when the assay was normalized to histone H4 expression, a measure of S-phase-specific expression, the moderate increase in tumor MTase mRNA levels was no longer observed. These data are in contrast to the previously reported results, and they indicate that changes in MTase mRNA levels in colon cancer are nonspecific and compatible with other markers of cell proliferation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10366-10370
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume93
Issue number19
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 17 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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