Vera L Costa

University of Oslo, Kristiania (historical), Oslo, Norway

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Publications (23)98.95 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Epigenetic alterations are common in prostate cancer (PCa) and seem to contribute decisively to its initiation and progression. Moreover, aberrant promoter methylation is a promising biomarker for non-invasive screening. Herein, we sought to characterize EFEMP1 as biomarker for PCa, unveiling its biological relevance in prostate carcinogenesis. Microarray analyses of treated PCa cell lines and primary tissues enabled the selection of differentially methylated genes, among which EFEMP1 was further validated by MSP and bisulfite sequencing. Assessment of biomarker performance was accomplished by qMSP. Expression analysis of EFEMP1 and characterization of histone marks were performed in tissue samples and cancer cell lines to determine the impact of epigenetic mechanisms on EFEMP1 transcriptional regulation. Phenotypic assays, using transfected cell lines, permitted the evaluation of EFEMP1's role in PCa development. EFEMP1 methylation assay discriminated PCa from normal prostate tissue (NPT; P < 0.001, Kruskall–Wallis test) and renal and bladder cancers (96% sensitivity and 98% specificity). EFEMP1 transcription levels inversely correlated with promoter methylation and histone deacetylation, suggesting that both epigenetic mechanisms are involved in gene regulation. Phenotypic assays showed that EFEMP1 de novo expression reduces malignant phenotype of PCa cells. EFEMP1 promoter methylation is prevalent in PCa and accurately discriminates PCa from non-cancerous prostate tissues and other urological neoplasms. This epigenetic alteration occurs early in prostate carcinogenesis and, in association with histone deacetylation, progressively leads to gene down-regulation, fostering cell proliferation, invasion and evasion of apoptosis.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2014 · Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine
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    ABSTRACT: Background Multidrug resistance 1 (MDR1) gene encodes for an ATP binding cassette transporter - P-glycoprotein (P-gp) - involved in chemoresistance to taxanes. MDR1 promoter methylation is frequent in prostate carcinoma (PCa), suggesting an epigenetic regulation but no functional correlation has been established. We aimed to elucidate the epigenetic mechanisms involved in MDR1 deregulation in PCa. Results MDR1 promoter methylation and P-gp expression were assessed in 121 PCa, 39 high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN), 28 benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and 10 morphologically normal prostate tissue (NPT) samples, using quantitative methylation specific PCR and immunohistochemistry, respectively. PCa cell lines were exposed to a DNA methyltransferases inhibitor 5-aza-2′deoxycytidine (DAC) and histone deacetylases inhibitor trichostatin A (TSA). Methylation and histone posttranscriptional modifications status were characterized and correlated with mRNA and protein expression. MDR1 promoter methylation levels and frequency significantly increased from NPTs, to HGPIN and to PCa. Conversely, decreased or absent P-gp immunoexpression was observed in HGPIN and PCa, inversely correlating with methylation levels. Exposure to DAC alone did not alter significantly methylation levels, although increased expression was apparent. However, P-gp mRNA and protein re-expression were higher in cell lines exposed to TSA alone or combined with DAC. Accordingly, histone active marks H3Ac, H3K4me2, H3K4me3, H3K9Ac, and H4Ac were increased at the MDR1 promoter after exposure to TSA alone or combined with DAC. Conclusion Our data suggests that, in prostate carcinogenesis, MDR1 downregulation is mainly due to histone post-translational modifications. This occurs concomitantly with aberrant promoter methylation, substantiating the association with P-gp decreased expression.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2013 · BMC Genomics
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    ABSTRACT: FLI1 and ERG, the major ETS transcription factors involved in rearrangements in the Ewing's sarcoma family of tumors (ESFT) and in prostate carcinomas (PCa), respectively, belong to the same subfamily, having 98% sequence identity in the DNA binding domain. We therefore decided to investigate whether the aberrant transcription factors in both malignancies have some common downstream targets. We crossed a publicly available list of all putative EWSR1-FLI1 target genes in ESFT with our microarray expression data on 24 PCa and 6 non-malignant prostate tissues (NPT) and choose four genes among the top-most differentially expressed between PCa with (PCa ERG+) and without (PCa ETS-) ETS fusion genes (HIST1H4L, KCNN2, ECRG4 and LDOC1), as well as four well-validated direct targets of the EWSR1-FLI1 chimeric protein in ESFT (NR0B1, CAV1, IGFBP3 and TGFBR2). Using quantitative expression analysis in 16 ESFT and seven alveolar rhabdomyosarcomas (ARMS), we were able to validate the four genes previously described as direct targets of the EWSR1-FLI1 oncoprotein, showing overexpression of CAV1 and NR0B1 and underexpression of IGFBP3 and TGFBR2 in ESFT as compared to ARMS. Although none of these four genes showed significant expression differences between PCa ERG+ and PCa ETS-, CAV1, IGFBP3 and TGFBR2 were less expressed in PCa in an independent series of 56 PCa and 15 NPT, as also observed for ECRG4 and LDOC1, suggesting a role in prostate carcinogenesis in general. On the other hand, we demonstrate for the first time that both HIST1H4L and KCNN2 are significantly overexpressed in PCa ERG+ and that ERG binds to the promoter of these genes. Conversely, KCNN2 was found underexpressed in ESFT relative to ARMS, suggesting that the EWSR1-ETS oncoprotein may have the opposite effect of ERG rearrangements in PCa. We conclude that aberrant ETS transcription factors modulate target genes differently in ESFT and PCa.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2012 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: The three main types of urological cancers are mostly curable by surgical resection, if early detected. We aimed to identify novel DNA methylation biomarkers common to these three urological cancers, potentially suitable for non-invasive testing. From a candidate list of markers created after gene expression assessment of pharmacologically treated cell lines and tissue samples, two genes were selected for further validation. Methylation levels of these genes were quantified in a total of 12 cancer cell lines and 318 clinical samples. PCDH17 and TCF21 methylation levels provided a sensitivity rate of 92% for bladder cancer, 67% for renal cell tumors and 96% for prostate cancer. Methylation levels were significantly different from those of cancer free individuals (n = 37) for all tumor types (p < 0.001), providing 83% sensitivity and 100% specificity for cancer detection. Although in urine samples the sensitivity was 60%, 32% and 26% for bladder, renal, and prostate tumors, respectively (39% overall), absolute specificity was retained. We identified novel and highly specific methylation markers common to the three main urological cancers. However, additional efforts are required to increase the assay's sensitivity, enabling the simultaneous non-invasive screening of urological tumors in a single voided urine analysis.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2011 · Epigenetics: official journal of the DNA Methylation Society
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    ABSTRACT: Previously, we reported that the accuracy of cytological diagnosis of breast lesions could be augmented through the quantitative assessment of DNA methylation of fine-needle aspirate (FNA) washings. Herein, we aimed at the evaluation of the prognostic value of quantitative promoter methylation at three gene loci (APC, CCND2, and RASSF1A) in a large series of FNA washings from breast lesions. Methylation levels of three gene promoters were assessed by quantitative methylation-specific PCR in bisulfite-modified DNA from 211 FNA washings, comprising 178 carcinomas and 33 benign lesions, both histopathologically confirmed. Receiver operator characteristic (ROC) curve analysis was used to determine the diagnostic performance of the gene panel in distinguishing cancer from non-cancerous lesions. Relevant clinicopathologic data and time to progression and/or death from breast cancer were correlated with methylation findings. Log-rank test and Cox-regression model identified independent predictors of prognosis. APC, CCND2, and RASSF1A methylation levels differed significantly between malignant and benign lesions. ROC curve analysis confirmed the diagnostic performance of the gene panel. In univariate analysis, stage was significantly associated with overall, disease-specific and disease-free survival, whereas tumor grade was associated with disease-specific and disease-free survival. Remarkably, RASSF1A methylation was significantly and independently associated with worse disease-free survival in the final multivariate analysis. We confirmed that quantitative gene promoter methylation augments the diagnostic performance of cytopathology. Importantly, and in addition to standard clinicopathologic parameters, RASSF1A high-methylation levels are independent predictors of worse outcome in breast cancer. Thus, epigenetic biomarkers provide valuable tools for breast cancer patient management.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2011 · Breast Cancer Research and Treatment
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    Dataset: Figure S1
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    ABSTRACT: Genes showing different patterns of underexpression in carcinomas. A) Genes with considerable fold-decrease in ERG-positive carcinomas; B) Genes with underexpression in ERG-negative carcinomas; C) Genes with considerable fold-decrease in carcinomas, independent of ERG status; D) Genes with considerable fold-decrease in ERG-negative carcinomas accompanied by an even greater underexpression in ERG-positive cancers. Abbreviations: FC(a), median fold-change between non-malignant samples (NMT) and ERG-negative carcinomas; FC(b), median fold-change between non-malignant samples and ERG-positive carcinomas; FDR, false discovery rate. The top 20 genes in each subgroup, ranked based on fold-decrease, are provided (when available). (TIF)
    Preview · Dataset · Jul 2011
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    Dataset: Figure S3
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    ABSTRACT: External data. Linearized signal-intensity values for ERG and CRISP3 obtained from publicly available expression data from Setlur et al. for 206 prostate carcinomas: 103 with and 103 without TMPRSS2-ERG rearrangement (TMP-ERG+ and TMP-ERG−, respectively). The Mann-Whitney (MW) non-parametric test value is indicated. (TIF)
    Preview · Dataset · Jul 2011
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    Dataset: Table S3
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    ABSTRACT: Summarized findings in 24 prostate carcinoma samples. (PDF)
    Preview · Dataset · Jul 2011
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    ABSTRACT: A large percentage of prostate cancers harbor TMPRSS2-ERG gene fusions, leading to aberrant overexpression of the transcription factor ERG. The target genes deregulated by this rearrangement, however, remain mostly unknown. To address this subject we performed genome-wide mRNA expression analysis on 6 non-malignant prostate samples and 24 prostate carcinomas with (n = 16) and without (n = 8) TMPRSS2-ERG fusion as determined by FISH. The top-most differentially expressed genes and their associations with ERG over-expression were technically validated by quantitative real-time PCR and biologically validated in an independent series of 200 prostate carcinomas. Several genes encoding metabolic enzymes or extracellular/transmembrane proteins involved in cell adhesion, matrix remodeling and signal transduction pathways were found to be co-expressed with ERG. Within those significantly over-expressed in fusion-positive carcinomas, CRISP3 showed more than a 50-fold increase when compared to fusion-negative carcinomas, whose expression levels were in turn similar to that of non-malignant samples. In the independent validation series, ERG and CRISP3 mRNA levels were strongly correlated (r(s) = 0.65, p<0.001) and both were associated with pT3 disease staging. Furthermore, immunohistochemistry results showed CRISP3 protein overexpression in 63% of the carcinomas and chromatin immunoprecipitation with an anti-ERG antibody showed that CRISP3 is a direct target of the transcription factor ERG. We conclude that ERG rearrangement is associated with significant expression alterations in genes involved in critical cellular pathways that define a subset of locally advanced PCa. In particular, we show that CRISP3 is a direct target of ERG that is strongly overexpressed in PCa with the TMPRSS2-ERG fusion gene.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2011 · PLoS ONE
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    Dataset: Table S1
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    ABSTRACT: qRT-PCR primer and probe list. (PDF)
    Preview · Dataset · Jul 2011
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    Dataset: Figure S2
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    ABSTRACT: Box-plots representing the expression of ERG and CRISP3 across sample groups. A) Array findings (n = 30 samples); B) qRT-PCR findings (n = 13 samples). The Kruskal-Wallis (KW) non-parametric test values are indicated. (TIF)
    Preview · Dataset · Jul 2011
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    Dataset: Table S2
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    ABSTRACT: ChIP primer list for CRISP3 promoter. (PDF)
    Preview · Dataset · Jul 2011
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    ABSTRACT: The kidney is a target organ for the toxicity of several xenobiotics and is also highly susceptible to the development of malignant tumors. In both cases, in vitro studies provide insight to cellular damage, and represent adequate models to study either the mechanisms underlying the toxic effects of several nephrotoxicants or therapeutic approaches in renal cancer. The development of efficient methods for the establishment of human normal and tumor renal cell models is hence crucial. In this study, a technically simple and rapid protocol for the isolation and culture of human proximal tubular epithelial cells and human renal tumor cells from surgical specimens is presented. Tumor and normal tissues were processed by using the same methodology, based on mechanical disaggregation of tissue followed by enzymatic digestion and cell purification by sequential sieving. The overall procedure takes roughly one hour. The resulting cell preparations have excellent viabilities and yield. Establishment of primary cultures from all specimens was achieved successfully. The origin of primary cultured cells was established through morphological evaluation. Normal cells purity was confirmed by immunofluorescent staining and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction analysis for expression of specific markers.
    Full-text · Article · May 2011 · PLoS ONE
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    ABSTRACT: The OPCML gene (opioid binding protein/cell adhesion molecule-like), a putative tumour suppressor gene, is frequently inactivated in carcinomas, namely through aberrant promoter methylation. Herein, we aimed to determine whether OPCML altered expression mediated by epigenetic mechanisms was implicated in bladder carcinogenesis and to assess its potential as a bladder cancer epi-marker. OPCML promoter methylation levels from 91 samples of bladder urothelial carcinoma, 25 normal bladder tissues and bladder cancer cell lines were assessed by quantitative methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction, and correlated with OPCML mRNA expression, determined by quantitative reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction. To prove the epigenetic regulation of OPCML, five bladder cancer cell lines were exposed to 5-aza-2'deoxycytidine (5-aza-dC), a specific DNA methyltransferase inhibitor and trichostatin A (TSA), a histone deacetylase inhibitor. In bladder tumours, the overall frequency of methylation was 60% and methylation levels were significantly higher when compared with normal mucosa (P=0.0001). No correlation was found between methylation levels and clinicopathological parameters. Interestingly, OPCML promoter methylation was associated with worse disease-specific survival (P=0.022) in univariate analysis. Furthermore, a significant inverse correlation between OPCML promoter methylation and mRNA expression levels was found, although a significant re-expression was only achieved when 5-aza-dC and TSA were used simultaneously. The high frequency of OPCML promoter methylation in urothelial carcinomas suggests an important role for this epigenetic alteration in bladder carcinogenesis, highlighting its potential as an epigenetic biomarker for bladder urothelial carcinoma with prognostic significance.
    Full-text · Article · May 2011 · European journal of cancer (Oxford, England: 1990)
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    ABSTRACT: The KRT19 gene encodes cytokeratin 19, an element of the cytoskeleton whose expression is frequently altered in renal cell carcinoma (RCC). Epigenetic phenomena, such as promoter methylation, may be a regulatory mechanism of expression of this gene. The aim of this study was to assess the epigenetic regulation of the KRT19 gene using epigenetic-modulating drugs, through the evaluation of methylation and expression status of the promoter region of KRT19 in 6 renal carcinoma cell lines and 112 primary renal tumors (52 clear cell RCC, 22 papillary RCC, 22 chromophobe cell RCC, and 16 oncocytomas). The diagnostic and prognostic value of KRT19 methylation levels in RCC was also evaluated. In cell lines 769-P, A498, and Caki-1, KRT19 re-expression was observed after treatment with 5-aza-2'deoxycytidine and trichostatin A. Conversely, a decrease in promoter methylation levels was apparent for the same cell lines. In primary renal tumors, KRT19 promoter methylation frequency was low (20.5% of cases). Although chromophobe cell RCC showed the lowest frequency compared with the remaining subtypes, this difference did not reach statistical significance. Moreover, no correlation between KRT19 methylation and expression was apparent in tumor samples and no significant correlations with clinicopathological parameters were observed. KRT19 methylation is not a frequent feature of primary RCC and oncocytomas, nor is it associated with clinicopathological parameters. Although we found evidence that KRT19 gene expression is epigenetically regulated in cell lines, this finding was not translated to primary tumors, suggesting the intervention of other genetic mechanisms for in vivo regulation of the KRT19 gene.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2011 · DNA and cell biology
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    ABSTRACT: To identify a panel of epigenetic biomarkers for accurate bladder cancer (BlCa) detection in urine sediments. Gene expression microarray analysis of BlCa cell lines treated with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine and trichostatin A as well as 26 tissue samples was used to identify a list of novel methylation candidates for BlCa. Methylation levels of candidate genes were quantified in 4 BlCa cell lines, 50 BlCa tissues, 20 normal bladder mucosas (NBM), and urine sediments from 51 BlCa patients and 20 healthy donors, 19 renal cancer patients, and 20 prostate cancer patients. Receiver operator characteristic curve analysis was used to assess the diagnostic performance of the gene panel. GDF15, HSPA2, TMEFF2, and VIM were identified as epigenetic biomarkers for BlCa. The methylation levels were significantly higher in BlCa tissues than in NBM (P < 0.001) and the cancer specificity was retained in urine sediments (P < 0.001). A methylation panel comprising GDF15, TMEFF2, and VIM correctly identified BlCa tissues with 100% sensitivity and specificity. In urine samples, the panel achieved a sensitivity of 94% and specificity of 100% and an area under the curve of 0.975. The gene panel could discriminate BlCa from both healthy individuals and renal or prostate cancer patients (sensitivity, 94%; specificity, 90%). By using a genome-wide approach, we have identified a biomarker panel that allows for early and accurate noninvasive detection of BlCa using urine samples.
    Preview · Article · Oct 2010 · Clinical Cancer Research
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    ABSTRACT: The association of a genetic analysis that could improve the diagnostic accuracy of renal cell tumors in biopsy samples would allow better-informed therapeutic decisions. We performed comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) on an ex vivo fine-needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy and a tumor fragment obtained from 75 patients consecutively diagnosed with renal tumors and subjected to radical nephrectomy. The pattern of genomic changes by CGH was used blindly to classify the renal tumors and the genetic findings were subsequently compared with the histopathologic diagnosis. In particular cases, including in two carcinomas with morphologically distinct tumor areas, we performed FISH with several locus-specific probes, and looked for VHL point mutations, exonic rearrangements, or promoter methylation. CGH was successful in 82.7% FNA biopsies and in 96% tumor fragments, with the former allowing genetic diagnosis in 75% of renal cell tumors. The genetic and the initial histological classification differed in two renal neoplasias, but the genetic diagnosis was confirmed after review. The genetic pattern correctly diagnosed 93.5% of clear cell renal cell carcinomas (RCC), 61.5% of chromophobe RCC, 100% of papillary RCC, and 14.3% of oncocytomas, with the negative predictive value being 93.9, 90.7, 100, and 90.2%, respectively. The positive predictive value and specificity of copy number profiles was 100%. We demonstrate that genetic diagnosis by CGH on FNA biopsies can improve differential diagnosis in patients with kidney tumors.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2010 · Genes Chromosomes and Cancer
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    ABSTRACT: Severe toxicity to 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) based chemotherapy in gastrointestinal cancer has been associated with constitutional genetic alterations of the dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase gene (DPYD). In this study, we evaluated DPYD promoter methylation through quantitative methylation-specific PCR and screened DPYD for large intragenic rearrangements in peripheral blood from 45 patients with gastrointestinal cancers who developed severe 5-FU toxicity. DPYD promoter methylation was also assessed in tumor tissue from 29 patients Two cases with the IVS14+1G > A exon 14 skipping mutation (c.1905+1G > A), and one case carrying the 1845 G > T missense mutation (c.1845G > T) in the DPYD gene were identified. However, DPYD promoter methylation and large DPYD intragenic rearrangements were absent in all cases analyzed. Our results indicate that DPYD promoter methylation and large intragenic rearrangements do not contribute significantly to the development of 5-FU severe toxicity in gastrointestinal cancer patients, supporting the need for additional studies on the mechanisms underlying genetic susceptibility to severe 5-FU toxicity.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2010 · BMC Cancer
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    ABSTRACT: Constitutive activation of the Wnt signaling pathway is a common feature of solid tumors and contributes to uncontrolled cell-growth and impaired differentiation. We hypothesized that gene silencing mediated through aberrant promoter methylation of upstream Wnt antagonist genes might result in beta-catenin accumulation, resulting in constitutive Wnt activation. Wnt antagonist genes (SFRP1, WIF1, APC and CDH1) and CTNNB1 promoter methylation was examined in genomic DNA extracted from 12 urological cancer cell lines and correlated with CTNNB1 mRNA expression. Promoter methylation status was then assessed in 36 BCa, 30 PCa, 31 RCT, and normal bladder mucosa (15), prostate (10) and renal (5) tissue samples. Finally, CTNNB1 mRNA relative expression levels were correlated with Wnt antagonist gene methylation status in RCT. Methylation was found in at least one Wnt antagonist gene and the CTNNB1 promoter was unmethylated in all cancer cell lines tested. When gene methylation levels were compared between cancer cell lines with high and low CTNNB1 mRNA expression, a trend was found for increased CDH1 promoter methylation levels in the former. BCa and PC a tumors demonstrated high frequency of promoter methylation at all tested genes. In RCT, CTNNB1 was unmethylated in all cases and the overall frequency of promoter methylation at the remainder genes was lower. Interestingly, median CTNNB1 mRNA expression levels were significantly higher in RCTs methylated in at least one Wnt antagonist gene promoter. We concluded that epigenetic deregulation of Wnt pathway inhibitors may contribute to aberrant activation of Wnt signaling pathway in bladder, prostate and renal tumors.
    Full-text · Article · May 2010 · Epigenetics: official journal of the DNA Methylation Society
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    ABSTRACT: Apoptosis is known to be involved in tumorigenesis and a defective ratio between cell proliferation and apoptosis may contribute to the emergence of a malignant phenotype. Transcriptional silencing of apoptosis-related genes associated with aberrant promoter methylation may impair the apoptotic machinery, ultimately leading to cancer development. Aberrant promoter methylation of numerous genes involved in many different pathways is frequent in prostate cancer. Our aim was to quantitatively assess the methylation status of several apoptosis-related genes in prostate adenocarcinoma (PCa) and its precursor lesion, high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (HGPIN). First, 120 PCa and 39 HGPIN were screened for altered expression of BCL2, CASP8, CASP3, DAPK DR3, DR4, DR6, FAS, TMS1, TNFR2, using 28 benign prostate hyperplasias and 10 normal prostates as controls. Underexpressed genes were then assessed by quantitative methylation-specific PCR to determine the promoter methylation status. Finally, quantitative mRNA expression of aberrantly methylated genes was performed and methylation data was correlated with standard clinicopathologic parameters. DAPK, DR4 and TNFR2 were significantly overexpressed in HGPIN and PCa, whereas BCL2, TMS1, and FAS were downregulated. Although methylation levels were significantly higher for TMS1 and BCL2 (correlating with advanced stage), an inverse correlation with mRNA expression was found only for BCL2. We concluded that the apoptotic pathways are largely preserved in prostate carcinogenesis, in particular the extrinsic pathway, with the exception of FAS and TMS1, which are epigenetically downregulated. In addition, BCL2 was also found to be frequently silenced in PCa due to aberrant promoter methylation, thus supporting a future role for apoptosis-targeted therapy in prostate cancer.
    Full-text · Article · May 2010 · Apoptosis

Publication Stats

609 Citations
98.95 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2010-2014
    • University of Oslo
      • Centre for Cancer Biomedicine
      Kristiania (historical), Oslo, Norway
  • 2005-2013
    • Instituto Português de Oncologia
      • • Cancer Epigenetics Group
      • • Department of Pathology
      Oporto, Porto, Portugal
  • 2007
    • University of Porto
      • Department of Molecular Pahology and Immunology
      Oporto, Porto, Portugal