Journal Article

Methylation and inhibition of expression of uPA by the RAS oncogene: divergence of growth control and invasion in breast cancer cells

Pouya Pakneshan, Moshe Szyf and Shafaat A. Rabbani

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 26, issue 3, pages 557-564
Published in print March 2005 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online March 2005 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgi009
Methylation and inhibition of expression of uPA by the RAS oncogene: divergence of growth control and invasion in breast cancer cells

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Expression of urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA), a protease only expressed in highly invasive human breast cancer cells, is inhibited by DNA methylation of its promoter. We tested the hypothesis that up-regulation of DNA methyltransferase 1 (DNMT1) will lead to methylation and silencing of uPA and inhibition of the invasiveness of metastatic breast cancer cells. Since RAS was previously shown to up-regulate DNA methylation, we examined the effects of ectopic expression of constitutively active RAS on methylation and expression of uPA. Transfection of Ha-RAS into MDA-MB-231 human breast cancer cells resulted in a significantly shorter cell doubling time compared with the controls. However, expression and activity of the metastatic gene uPA and invasive capacity of the cells were significantly reduced by the oncogene RAS. Silencing of uPA by RAS is mediated by a cis modification of the uPA promoter and not through an effect on a trans-acting factor, since a transiently transfected unmethylated uPA–luicferase reporter is expressed at a similar level in RAS-transfected and control cells. We then examined the levels of DNMT1 and methylated DNA-binding protein 2 (MBD2) expressions in these cells to determine whether this reduction in uPA expression is associated with changes in the DNA methylation machinery. Our results showed that ectopic expression of RAS induced DNMT1 expression and activity and inhibited MBD2 expression. Consistent with methylation-mediated repression, uPA was partially methylated in RAS-transfected cells and uPA expression was induced upon treatment of RAS transfectants with the demethylating agent 5′-azacytidine. These results therefore imply that the RAS–DNMT1 DNA methylation pathway which promotes oncogenic growth in many cancers can exert an opposite effect on the invasive capacity of the highly invasive MDA-MB-231 cells, thus illustrating the divergence of growth and metastasis promoting pathways in cancer. This has important implications for new therapeutic approaches to metastasizing cancer.

Keywords: 5′-azaC, 5′-azacytidine; DNMT1, DNA methyltransferase 1; MBD2, methylated DNA-binding protein 2; MSP, methylation-specific PCR; Neo, neomycin resistance gene; uPA, urokinase-type plasminogen activator

Journal Article.  5849 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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