British journal of cancer

Promoter CpG methylation in cancer cells contributes to the regulation of MUC4.

PMID 19127263


Mucin 4 (MUC4) is a high molecular weight transmembrane mucin that is overexpressed in many carcinomas and is a risk factor associated with a poor prognosis. In this study, we show that the DNA methylation pattern is intimately correlated with MUC4 expression in breast, lung, pancreas and colon cancer cell lines. We mapped the DNA methylation status of 94 CpG sites from -3622 to +29 using MassARRAY analysis that utilises base-specific cleavage of nucleic acids. MUC4-negative cancer cell lines and those with low MUC4 expression (eg, A427) were highly methylated near the transcriptional start site, whereas MUC4-positive cell lines (eg, NCI-H292) had low methylation levels. Moreover, 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine and trichostatin A treatment of MUC4-negative cells or those with low MUC4 expression caused elevation of MUC4 mRNA. Our results suggest that DNA methylation in the 5' flanking region play an important role in MUC4 gene expression in carcinomas of various organs. An understanding of epigenetic changes in MUC4 may contribute to the diagnosis of carcinogenic risk and prediction of outcome in patients with cancer.