Heterogeneous methylation of the O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase promoter in immortalized IMR90 cell lines
Transcriptional silencing of the DNA repair protein, O6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase (MGMT), occurs only in malignant or transformed cell lines, and such MGMT-deficient cells are hypersensitive to chemotherapeutic alkylating agents such as 1, 3-bis (2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea (BCNU) and temozolomide. Previously we demonstrated in a panel of established cell lines that the lack of gene expression correlated with methylation
within the CpG island in the MGMT 5' gene flank. Now, we investigated the relationship between CpG methylation, MGMT suppression
and drug-sensitivity in normal, diploid MGMT-expressing IMR90 cells and five immortalized sublines (AA, EE, J, KK and Pool), four of which have silenced MGMT. As expected, the MGMT-expressing parental cells were most drug-resistant and free of promoter methylation, whereas the MGMT-silenced
immortal sublines were more drug-sensitive and promoter-methylated. Surprisingly, the sole MGMT-positive immortal subline, (AA) showed some promoter methylation although it was relatively drug-resistant; and an apparently MGMT-negative subline, (EE) showed unexpectedly low levels of methylation.
We determined if these discrepancies were due to heterogeneity (cellular or allelic) and if this reflected transitional states between expressing and silenced phenotypes. Analysis of the methylation status of CpGs by genomic sequencing of cloned single copy DNA confirmed heterogeneity
in both these sublines. With increasing cell culture passage, CpG methylation progressively increased with a concomitant trend to a completely MGMT-silenced phenotype in these sublines.
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Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: Department of Molecular Pharmacology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, TN 38105, USA
Publication date: June 1, 2001
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