Francesca De Santis

IEO - Istituto Europeo di Oncologia, Milano, Lombardy, Italy

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Publications (2)14.68 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: PML-RARalpha induces a block of hematopoietic differentiation and acute promyelocytic leukemia. This block is based on its capacity to inactivate target genes by recruiting histone deacetylase (HDAC) and DNA methyltransferase activities. Here we report that MBD1, a member of a conserved family of proteins able to bind methylated DNA, cooperates with PML-RARalpha in transcriptional repression and cellular transformation. PML-RARalpha recruits MBD1 to its target promoter through an HDAC3-mediated mechanism. Binding of HDAC3 and MBD1 is not confined to the promoter region but instead is spread over the locus. Knock-down of HDAC3 expression by RNA interference in acute promyelocytic leukemia cells alleviates PML-RAR-induced promoter silencing. We further demonstrate that retroviral expression of dominant-negative mutants of MBD1 in hematopoietic precursors compromises the ability of PML-RARalpha to block their differentiation and thus restored cell differentiation. Our results demonstrate that PML-RARalpha functions by recruiting an HDAC3-MBD1 complex that contributes to the establishment and maintenance of the silenced chromatin state.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2006 · Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
  • R Villa · F De Santis · A Gutierrez · S Minucci · P G Pelicci · L Di Croce
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    ABSTRACT: The recent explosion in our knowledge of how chromatin organization modulates gene transcription has highlighted the importance of epigenetic mechanisms in the initiation and progression of human cancer. These epigenetic changes--in particular, aberrant promoter hypermethylation that is associated with inappropriate gene silencing--affect virtually every step in tumor progression. Intriguingly, methylation patterns are severely altered in tumors, with an overall hypomethylation of the genome and hypermethylation of islands of CpGs clusters within specific DNA regions. Though overexpression of DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) has been proposed to be a mechanism for aberrant genome methylation, it does not explain the specific regional hypermethylation in cancer cells. We have analyzed the role of chromatin modifying activities in cell transformation using acute promyelocytic leukemia as a model system. This disease is caused by expression of the PML-RARalpha fusion protein, thus offering the opportunity of studying the mechanisms of leukemogenesis through molecular investigation of the activity of the directly transforming protein. Recent evidence suggests that PML-RARalpha as well as other leukemia-associated fusion proteins induce changes in the chromatin structure. Specifically, aberrant recruitment of different chromatin modifying enzymes to specific promoters induces DNA hypermethylation and heterochromatin formation, which consequentially leads to the transcriptional silencing of that genes. Importantly, these epigenetic modifications were found to contribute to the leukemogenic potential of PML-RARalpha. These observations suggest that epigenetic alterations could actively contribute to the development of APL and other hyperproliferative diseases.
    No preview · Article · Oct 2004 · Biochemical Pharmacology