Clare Stirzaker

The Kinghorn Cancer Centre, Darlinghurst, New South Wales, Australia

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Publications (25)265.15 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Affinity capture of DNA methylation combined with high-throughput sequencing strikes a good balancebetween the high cost of whole genome bisulfite sequencing and the low coverage of methylationarrays. We present BayMeth, an empirical Bayes approach that uses a fully methylated control sampleto transform observed read counts into regional methylation levels. In our model, inefficient capturecan readily be distinguished from low methylation levels. BayMeth improves on existing methods,allows explicit modeling of copy number variation, and offers computationally-efficient analyticalmean and variance estimators. BayMeth is available in the Repitools Bioconductor package.
    Genome biology 02/2014; 15(2):R35. · 10.30 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: There are over 28 million CpG sites in the human genome. Assessing the methylation status of each of these sites will be required to understand fully the role of DNA methylation in health and disease. Genome-wide analysis, using arrays and high-throughput sequencing, has enabled assessment of large fractions of the methylome, but each protocol comes with unique advantages and disadvantages. Notably, except for whole-genome bisulfite sequencing, most commonly used genome-wide methods detect <5% of all CpG sites. Here, we discuss approaches for methylome studies and compare genome coverage of promoters, genes, and intergenic regions, and capacity to quantitate individual CpG methylation states. Finally, we examine the extent of published cancer methylomes that have been generated using genome-wide approaches.
    Trends in Genetics 12/2013; · 9.77 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Stromal-epithelial cell interactions play an important role in cancer and the tumor stroma is regarded as a therapeutic target. In vivo xenografting is commonly used to study cellular interactions not mimicked or quantified in conventional 2D culture systems. To interrogate the effects of tumor stroma (cancer-associated fibroblasts or CAFs) on epithelia, we created a bioengineered microenvironment using human prostatic tissues. Patient-matched CAFs and non-malignant prostatic fibroblasts (NPFs) from men with moderate (Gleason 7) and aggressive (Gleason 8-9 or castrate-resistant) prostate cancer were cultured with non-tumorigenic BPH-1 epithelial cells. Changes in the morphology, motility and phenotype of BPH-1 cells in response to CAFs and NPFs were analyzed using immunofluorescence and quantitative cell morphometric analyses. The matrix protein gene expression of CAFs, with proven tumorigenicity in vivo, had a significantly different gene expression profile of matrix proteins compared to patient matched NPFs. In co-culture with CAFs (but not NPFs), BPH-1 cells had a more invasive, elongated phenotype with increased motility and a more directed pattern of cell migration. CAFs from more aggressive tumors (Gleason 8-9 or CRPC) were not quantitatively different to moderate grade CAFs. Overall, our bioengineered microenvironment provides a novel 3D in vitro platform to systematically investigate the effects of tumor stroma on prostate cancer progression.
    Biomaterials 04/2013; · 7.60 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Epigenetic gene deregulation in cancer commonly occurs through chromatin repression and promoter hypermethylation of tumor-associated genes. However, the mechanism underpinning epigenetic-based gene activation in carcinogenesis is still poorly understood. Here, we identify a mechanism of domain gene deregulation through coordinated long-range epigenetic activation (LREA) of regions that typically span 1 Mb and harbor key oncogenes, microRNAs, and cancer biomarker genes. Gene promoters within LREA domains are characterized by a gain of active chromatin marks and a loss of repressive marks. Notably, although promoter hypomethylation is uncommon, we show that extensive DNA hypermethylation of CpG islands or "CpG-island borders" is strongly related to cancer-specific gene activation or differential promoter usage. These findings have wide ramifications for cancer diagnosis, progression, and epigenetic-based gene therapies.
    Cancer cell 12/2012; · 25.29 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Developments in microarray and high throughput sequencing (HTS) technologies have resulted in a rapid expansion of research into epigenomic changes that occur in normal development and in the progression of disease, such as cancer. Not surprisingly, copy number variation (CNV) has a direct effect on HTS read densities and can therefore bias differential detection results. We have developed a flexible approach called ABCD-DNA (Affinity Based Copy-number-aware Differential quantitative DNA sequencing analyses) that integrates CNV and other systematic factors directly into the differential enrichment engine.
    Genome Research 08/2012; · 14.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Deregulation of microRNA (miRNA) expression can have a critical role in carcinogenesis. Here we show in prostate cancer that miRNA-205 (miR-205) transcription is commonly repressed and the MIR-205 locus is hypermethylated. LOC642587, the MIR-205 host gene of unknown function, is also concordantly inactivated. We show that miR-205 targets mediator 1 (MED1, also called TRAP220 and PPARBP) for transcriptional silencing in normal prostate cells, leading to reduction in MED1 mRNA levels, and in total and active phospho-MED1 protein. Overexpression of miR-205 in prostate cancer cells negatively affects cell viability, consistent with a tumor suppressor function. We found that hypermethylation of the MIR-205 locus was strongly related with a decrease in miR-205 expression and an increase in MED1 expression in primary tumor samples (n=14), when compared with matched normal prostate (n=7). An expanded patient cohort (tumor n=149, matched normal n=30) also showed significant MIR-205 DNA methylation in tumors compared with normal, and MIR-205 hypermethylation is significantly associated with biochemical recurrence (hazard ratio=2.005, 95% confidence interval (1.109, 3.625), P=0.02), in patients with low preoperative prostate specific antigen. In summary, these results suggest that miR-205 is an epigenetically regulated tumor suppressor that targets MED1 and may provide a potential biomarker in prostate cancer management.Oncogene advance online publication, 6 August 2012; doi:10.1038/onc.2012.300.
    Oncogene 08/2012; · 7.36 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The complex relationship between DNA methylation, chromatin modification, and underlying DNA sequence is often difficult to unravel with existing technologies. Here, we describe a novel technique based on high-throughput sequencing of bisulfite-treated chromatin immunoprecipitated DNA (BisChIP-seq), which can directly interrogate genetic and epigenetic processes that occur in normal and diseased cells. Unlike most previous reports based on correlative techniques, we found using direct bisulfite sequencing of Polycomb H3K27me3-enriched DNA from normal and prostate cancer cells that DNA methylation and H3K27me3-marked histones are not always mutually exclusive, but can co-occur in a genomic region-dependent manner. Notably, in cancer, the co-dependency of marks is largely redistributed with an increase of the dual repressive marks at CpG islands and transcription start sites of silent genes. In contrast, there is a loss of DNA methylation in intergenic H3K27me3-marked regions. Allele-specific methylation status derived from the BisChIP-seq data clearly showed that both methylated and unmethylated alleles can simultaneously be associated with H3K27me3 histones, highlighting that DNA methylation status in these regions is not dependent on Polycomb chromatin status. BisChIP-seq is a novel approach that can be widely applied to directly interrogate the genomic relationship between allele-specific DNA methylation, histone modification, or other important epigenetic regulators.
    Genome Research 03/2012; 22(6):1120-7. · 14.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Histone H2A.Z (H2A.Z) is an evolutionarily conserved H2A variant implicated in the regulation of gene expression; however, its role in transcriptional deregulation in cancer remains poorly understood. Using genome-wide studies, we investigated the role of promoter-associated H2A.Z and acetylated H2A.Z (acH2A.Z) in gene deregulation and its relationship with DNA methylation and H3K27me3 in prostate cancer. Our results reconcile the conflicting reports of positive and negative roles for histone H2A.Z and gene expression states. We find that H2A.Z is enriched in a bimodal distribution at nucleosomes, surrounding the transcription start sites (TSSs) of both active and poised gene promoters. In addition, H2A.Z spreads across the entire promoter of inactive genes in a deacetylated state. In contrast, acH2A.Z is only localized at the TSSs of active genes. Gene deregulation in cancer is also associated with a reorganization of acH2A.Z and H2A.Z nucleosome occupancy across the promoter region and TSS of genes. Notably, in cancer cells we find that a gain of acH2A.Z at the TSS occurs with an overall decrease of H2A.Z levels, in concert with oncogene activation. Furthermore, deacetylation of H2A.Z at TSSs is increased with silencing of tumor suppressor genes. We also demonstrate that acH2A.Z anti-correlates with promoter H3K27me3 and DNA methylation. We show for the first time, that acetylation of H2A.Z is a key modification associated with gene activity in normal cells and epigenetic gene deregulation in tumorigenesis.
    Genome Research 07/2011; 22(2):307-21. · 14.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality and requires more effective molecular markers of prognosis and therapeutic responsiveness. Special AT-rich binding protein 1 (SATB1) is a global genome organizer that recruits chromatin remodeling proteins to epigenetically regulate hundreds of genes in a tissue-specific manner. Initial studies suggest that SATB1 overexpression is a predictor of poor prognosis in breast cancer, but the prognostic significance of SATB1 expression has not been evaluated in lung cancer. A cohort of 257 lung cancers was evaluated by immunohistochemistry. Epigenetic silencing of SATB1 was examined in cell lines by 5-Aza 2-deoxycytidine and trichostatin A treatment, and chromatin immunoprecipitation. Significant loss of SATB1 expression was found in squamous preinvasive lesions (p < 0.04) and in non-small cell lung cancers (p < 0.001) compared with matched normal bronchial epithelium. Loss of SATB1 independently predicted poor cancer-specific survival in squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs; hazard ratio: 2.06, 95% confidence interval: 1.2-3.7, p = 0.016). Treatment of lung cancer cell lines with the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A resulted in up-regulation of SATB1. SATB1 was associated with a decrease in the active chromatin mark acetylated histone H3K9 and an increase in the repressive polycomb mark trimethylated H3K27 in a SCC cell line relative to a normal bronchial epithelial cell line. This is the first study showing that SATB1 expression is lost in early preinvasive squamous lesions and that loss of SATB1 is associated with poor prognosis in lung SCC. We hypothesize that the SATB1 gene is epigenetically silenced through histone modifications.
    Journal of thoracic oncology: official publication of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer 05/2011; 6(7):1179-89. · 4.55 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Previously, we showed that gene suppression commonly occurs across chromosome 2q14.2 in colorectal cancer, through a process of long-range epigenetic silencing (LRES), involving a combination of DNA methylation and repressive histone modifications. We now investigate whether LRES also occurs in prostate cancer across this 4-Mb region and whether differential DNA methylation of 2q14.2 genes could provide a regional panel of prostate cancer biomarkers. We used highly sensitive DNA methylation headloop PCR assays that can detect 10 to 25 pg of methylated DNA with a specificity of at least 1:1,000, and chromatin immunoprecipitation assays to investigate regional epigenetic remodeling across 2q14.2 in prostate cancer, in a cohort of 195 primary prostate tumors and 90 matched normal controls. Prostate cancer cells exhibit concordant deacetylation and methylation of histone H3 Lysine 9 (H3K9Ac and H3K9me2, respectively), and localized DNA hypermethylation of EN1, SCTR, and INHBB and corresponding loss of H3K27me3. EN1 and SCTR were frequently methylated (65% and 53%, respectively), whereas INHBB was less frequently methylated. Consistent with LRES in colorectal cancer, we found regional epigenetic remodeling across 2q14.2 in prostate cancer. Concordant methylation of EN1 and SCTR was able to differentiate cancer from normal (P < 0.0001) and improved the diagnostic specificity of GSTP1 methylation for prostate cancer detection by 26%. For the first time we show that DNA methylation of EN1 and SCTR promoters provide potential novel biomarkers for prostate cancer detection and in combination with GSTP1 methylation can add increased specificity and sensitivity to improve diagnostic potential.
    Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers &amp Prevention 01/2011; 20(1):148-59. · 4.56 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: DNA methylation primarily occurs at CpG dinucleotides in mammals and is a common epigenetic mark that plays a critical role in the regulation of gene expression. Profiling DNA methylation patterns across the genome is vital to understand DNA methylation changes that occur during development and in disease phenotype. In this study, we compared two commonly used approaches to enrich for methylated DNA regions of the genome, namely methyl-DNA immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) that is based on enrichment with antibodies specific for 5'-methylcytosine (5MeC), and capture of methylated DNA using a methyl-CpG binding domain-based (MBD) protein to discover differentially methylated regions (DMRs) in cancer. The enriched methylated DNA fractions were interrogated on Affymetrix promoter tiling arrays and differentially methylated regions were identified. A detailed validation study of 42 regions was performed using Sequenom MassCLEAVE technique. This detailed analysis revealed that both enrichment techniques are sensitive for detecting DMRs and preferentially identified different CpG rich regions of the prostate cancer genome, with MeDIP commonly enriching for methylated regions with a low CpG density, while MBD capture favors regions of higher CpG density and identifies the greatest proportion of CpG islands. This is the first detailed validation report comparing different methylated DNA enrichment techniques for identifying regions of differential DNA methylation. Our study highlights the importance of understanding the nuances of the methods used for DNA genome-wide methylation analyses so that accurate interpretation of the biology is not overlooked.
    Epigenetics: official journal of the DNA Methylation Society 01/2011; 6(1):34-44. · 4.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: DNA methylation is an essential epigenetic modification that plays a key role associated with the regulation of gene expression during differentiation, but in disease states such as cancer, the DNA methylation landscape is often deregulated. There are now numerous technologies available to interrogate the DNA methylation status of CpG sites in a targeted or genome-wide fashion, but each method, due to intrinsic biases, potentially interrogates different fractions of the genome. In this study, we compare the affinity-purification of methylated DNA between two popular genome-wide techniques, methylated DNA immunoprecipitation (MeDIP) and methyl-CpG binding domain-based capture (MBDCap), and show that each technique operates in a different domain of the CpG density landscape. We explored the effect of whole-genome amplification and illustrate that it can reduce sensitivity for detecting DNA methylation in GC-rich regions of the genome. By using MBDCap, we compare and contrast microarray- and sequencing-based readouts and highlight the impact that copy number variation (CNV) can make in differential comparisons of methylomes. These studies reveal that the analysis of DNA methylation data and genome coverage is highly dependent on the method employed, and consideration must be made in light of the GC content, the extent of DNA amplification, and the copy number.
    Genome Research 11/2010; 20(12):1719-29. · 14.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Epigenetics, the study of heritable somatic phenotypic changes not related to DNA sequence, has emerged as a critical component of the landscape of gene regulation. The epigenetic layers, such as DNA methylation, histone modifications and nuclear architecture are now being extensively studied in many cell types and disease settings. Few software tools exist to summarize and interpret these datasets. We have created a toolbox of procedures to interrogate and visualize epigenomic data (both array- and sequencing-based) and make available a software package for the cross-platform R language. The package is freely available under LGPL from the R-Forge web site (http://repitools.r-forge.r-project.org/) mrobinson@wehi.edu.au.
    Bioinformatics 07/2010; 26(13):1662-3. · 5.47 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Silencing of individual genes can occur by genetic and epigenetic processes during carcinogenesis, but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. By creating an integrated prostate cancer epigenome map using tiling arrays, we show that contiguous regions of gene suppression commonly occur through long-range epigenetic silencing (LRES). We identified 47 LRES regions in prostate cancer, typically spanning about 2 Mb and harbouring approximately 12 genes, with a prevalence of tumour suppressor and miRNA genes. Our data reveal that LRES is associated with regional histone deacetylation combined with subdomains of different epigenetic remodelling patterns, which include re-enforcement, gain or exchange of repressive histone, and DNA methylation marks. The transcriptional and epigenetic state of genes in normal prostate epithelial and human embryonic stem cells can play a critical part in defining the mode of cancer-associated epigenetic remodelling. We propose that consolidation or effective reduction of the cancer genome commonly occurs in domains through a combination of LRES and LOH or genomic deletion, resulting in reduced transcriptional plasticity within these regions.
    Nature Cell Biology 02/2010; 12(3):235-46. · 20.76 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Changes in the epigenetic landscape are widespread in neoplasia, with de novo methylation and histone repressive marks commonly enriched in CpG island associated promoter regions. DNA hypermethylation and histone repression correlate with gene silencing, however, the dynamics of this process are still largely unclear. The tumour suppressor gene p16(INK4A) is inactivated in association with CpG island methylation during neoplastic progression in a variety of cancers, including breast cancer. Here, we investigated the temporal progression of DNA methylation and histone remodelling in the p16(INK4A) CpG island in primary human mammary epithelial cell (HMEC) strains during selection, as a model for early breast cancer. Silencing of p16(INK4A) has been previously shown to be necessary before HMECs can escape from selection. Here, we demonstrate that gene silencing occurs prior to de novo methylation and histone remodelling. An increase in DNA methylation was associated with a rapid loss of both histone H3K27 trimethylation and H3K9 acetylation and a gradual gain of H3K9 dimethylation. Interestingly, we found that regional-specific 'seeding' methylation occurs early after post-selection and that the de novo methylation pattern observed in HMECs correlates with the apparent footprint of nucleosomes across the p16(INK4A) CpG island. Our results demonstrate for the first time that p16(INK4A) gene silencing is a precursor to epigenetic suppression and that subsequent de novo methylation initially occurs in nucleosome-free regions across the p16(INK4A) CpG island and this is associated with a dynamic change in histone modifications.
    Human Molecular Genetics 06/2009; 18(16):3098-109. · 7.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Human mammary epithelial cells (HMEC) grown under standard cell culture conditions enter a growth phase referred to as selection, but a subpopulation is able to escape from arrest and continue to proliferate. These cells, called post-selection or variant HMECs, may be derived from progenitor cells found in normal mammary epithelium that subsequently acquire premalignant lesions, including p16(INK4A) promoter hypermethylation. Epigenetic silencing of tumor suppressor genes through DNA methylation and histone modification is an early event in tumorigenesis. A major challenge is to find genes or gene pathways that are commonly silenced to provide early epigenetic diagnostic and therapeutic cancer targets. To identify very early epigenetic events that occur in breast cancer, we used microarrays to screen for gene pathways that were suppressed in post-selection HMECs but reactivated after treatment with the demethylation agent 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine. We found that several members of the transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) signaling pathway were consistently down-regulated in the post-selection HMEC populations, and this was associated with a marked decrease in Smad4 nuclear staining. Gene suppression was not associated with DNA methylation but with chromatin remodeling, involving a decrease in histone H3 lysine 27 trimethylation and an increase in histone H3 lysine 9 dimethylation and deacetylation. These results show for the first time that TGF-beta2, its receptors TGF-beta R1 and TGF-beta R2, and activator thrombospondin-1 are concordantly suppressed early in breast carcinogenesis by histone modifications and indicate that the TGF-beta signaling pathway is a novel target for gene activation by epigenetic therapy.
    Cancer Research 01/2008; 67(24):11517-27. · 8.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Biallelic promoter methylation and transcriptional silencing of the MLH1 gene occurs in the majority of sporadic colorectal cancers exhibiting microsatellite instability due to defective DNA mismatch repair. Long-range epigenetic silencing of contiguous genes has been found on chromosome 2q14 in colorectal cancer. We hypothesized that epigenetic silencing of MLH1 could occur on a regional scale affecting additional genes within 3p22, rather than as a focal event. We studied the levels of CpG island methylation and expression of multiple contiguous genes across a 4 Mb segment of 3p22 including MLH1 in microsatellite-unstable and -stable cancers, and their paired normal colonic mucosa. We found concordant CpG island hypermethylation, H3-K9 dimethylation and transcriptional silencing of MLH1 and multiple flanking genes spanning up to 2.4 Mb in microsatellite-unstable colorectal cancers. This region was interspersed with unmethylated genes, which were also transcriptionally repressed. Expression of both methylated and unmethylated genes was reactivated by methyltransferase and histone deacetylase inhibitors in a microsatellite-unstable colorectal carcinoma cell line. Two genes at the telomeric end of the region were also hypermethylated in microsatellite-stable cancers, adenomas, and at low levels in normal colonic mucosa from older individuals. Thus, the cluster of genes flanking MLH1 that was specifically methylated in the microsatellite-unstable group of cancers extended across 1.1 Mb. Our results show that coordinate epigenetic silencing extends across a large chromosomal region encompassing MLH1 in microsatellite-unstable colorectal cancers. Simultaneous epigenetic silencing of this cluster of 3p22 genes may contribute to the development or progression of this type of cancer.
    Cancer Research 11/2007; 67(19):9107-16. · 8.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: DNA methylation is an important epigenetic modification of DNA in mammalian genomes. DNA methylation patterns are established early in development, modulated during tissue-specific differentiation and disrupted in many disease states, including cancer. To understand further the biological functions of these changes, accurate and reproducible methods are required to fully analyze the DNA methylation sequence. Here, we describe the 'gold-standard' bisulphite conversion protocol that can be used to re-sequence DNA from mammalian cells in order to determine and quantify the methylation state of a gene or genomic region at single-nucleotide resolution. The process of bisulphite treatment exploits the different sensitivities of cytosine and 5-methylcytosine (5-MeC) to deamination by bisulphite under acidic conditions—in which cytosine undergoes conversion to uracil, whereas 5-MeC remains unreactive. Bisulphite conversion of DNA, in either single tubes or in a 96-well format, can be performed in a minimum of 8 h and a maximum of 18 h, depending on the amount and quality of starting DNA.
    Nature Protocols 12/2006; 1(5):2353-2364. · 7.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We report a new mechanism in carcinogenesis involving coordinate long-range epigenetic gene silencing. Epigenetic silencing in cancer has always been envisaged as a local event silencing discrete genes. However, in this study of silencing in colorectal cancer, we found common repression of the entire 4-Mb band of chromosome 2q.14.2, associated with global methylation of histone H3 Lys9. DNA hypermethylation within the repressed genomic neighborhood was localized to three separate enriched CpG island 'suburbs', with the largest hypermethylated suburb spanning 1 Mb. These data change our understanding of epigenetic gene silencing in cancer cells: namely, epigenetic silencing can span large regions of the chromosome, and both DNA-methylated and neighboring unmethylated genes can be coordinately suppressed by global changes in histone modification. We propose that loss of gene expression can occur through long-range epigenetic silencing, with similar implications as loss of heterozygosity in cancer.
    Nature Genetics 06/2006; 38(5):540-9. · 35.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: It is well established that DNA hypermethylation of tumor suppressor and tumor-related genes can occur in cancer cells and that each cancer subtype has specific gene sets that are commonly susceptible to methylation and silencing. Glutathione S-transferase (GSTP1) is one example of a gene that is hypermethylated and inactivated in the majority of prostate cancers. We previously reported that hypermethylation of the GSTP1 CpG island promoter in prostate cancer cells is initiated by a combination of transcriptional gene silencing (by removal of the Sp1 sites) and seeds of methylation that, instead of being constantly removed because of demethylation associated with transcription, acts as a catalyst for the spread of methylation across the CpG island. In this study, we now demonstrate that the seeds of DNA methylation also play an important role in initiating chromatin modification. Our results address a number of central questions about the temporal relationship between gene expression, DNA hypermethylation, and chromatin modification in cancer cells. We find that for the GSTP1 gene, (a). histone acetylation is independent of gene expression, (b). histone deacetylation is triggered by seeds of DNA methylation, (c). the spread of DNA hypermethylation across the island is linked to MBD2 and not MeCP2 binding, and (d). histone methylation occurs after histone deacetylation and is associated with extensive DNA methylation of the CpG island. These findings have important implications for understanding the biochemical events underlying the mechanisms responsible for abnormal hypermethylation of CpG island-associated genes in cancer cells.
    Cancer Research 07/2004; 64(11):3871-7. · 8.65 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

1k Citations
265.15 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2013
    • The Kinghorn Cancer Centre
      Darlinghurst, New South Wales, Australia
  • 2012
    • University of Zurich
      Zürich, Zurich, Switzerland
  • 2006–2012
    • Garvan Institute of Medical Research
      • Cancer Research Program
      Darlinghurst, New South Wales, Australia
  • 1997–2004
    • Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
      Camperdown, New South Wales, Australia