Background: Claudins are membrane proteins that play critical roles in tight junction (TJ) formation and function. Members of the claudin gene family have been demonstrated to be aberrantly regulated, and to participate in the pathogenesis of various human cancers. In the present study, we report that claudin-11 (CLDN11) is silenced in gastric cancer via hypermethylation of its promoter region. Methodology/Principal Findings: Levels of CLDN11 methylation and mRNA expression were measured in primary gastric cancer tissues, noncancerous gastric mucosae, and cell lines of gastric origin using quantitative methylation-specific PCR (qMSP) and quantitative reverse transcriptase-PCR (qRT-PCR), respectively. Analyses of paired gastric cancers and adjacent normal gastric tissues revealed hypermethylation of the CLDN11 promoter region in gastric cancers, and this hypermethylation was significantly correlated with downregulation of CLDN11 expression vs. normal tissues. The CLDN11 promoter region was also hypermethylated in all gastric cancer cell lines tested relative to immortalized normal gastric epithelial cells. Moreover, CLDN11 mRNA expression was inversely correlated with its methylation level. Treatment of CLDN11-nonexpressing gastric cancer cells with 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine restored CLDN11 expression. Moreover, siRNA-mediated knockdown of CLDN11 expression in normal gastric epithelial cells increased their motility and invasiveness. Conclusions/Significance: These data suggest that hypermethylation of CLDN11, leading to downregulated expression, contributes to gastric carcinogenesis by increasing cellular motility and invasiveness. A further understanding of the mechanisms underlying the role of claudin proteins in gastric carcinogenesis will likely help in the identification of novel approaches for diagnosis and therapy of gastric cancer.
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