Reversal of p15/INK4b hypermethylation in AML1/ETO-positive and -negative myeloid leukemia cell lines
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In vitro and in vivo, myeloid leukemic and preleukemic cells exhibit variable sensitivity to the antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects induced already at low concentrations of DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) inhibitors. The molecular mechanisms underlying this variable sensitivity of leukemic blasts to azanucleosides such as 5-azacytidine and 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (DAC) may involve modifier effects of specific fusion proteins such as AML1/ETO. The cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p15/INK4b is one potential target of DNA demethylating activity in AML and MDS where it is frequently silenced by hypermethylation. To study sensitivity to DAC in myeloid leukemia cells, we chose the myeloid cell lines Kasumi-1 (expressing AML1/ETO), KG-1 and KG-1a (both AML1/ETO-negative) all of which a highly methylated p15/INK4b gene. Treatment with DAC resulted in dose-dependent regional demethylation of p15/INK4b in Kasumi-1 and KG-1, but only to a modest degree in KG-1a cells. Demethylation was associated with induction of p15/INK4b protein expression. Growth-inhibitory and proapoptotic activity of DAC was significantly higher in Kasumi-1 than in KG-1a cells, and sensitization of cells to a cooperating effect of All-trans retinoic acid and of the histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitor Trichostatin A was observed. DAC-induced growth inhibition and apoptosis were enhanced when AML1/ETO was conditionally expressed in AML1/ETO-negative U-937 cells. In conclusion, hypomethylation and reactivation of p15/INK4b in myeloid cell lines are among the molecular events associated with DAC-induced growth arrest and apoptosis. Further studies of AML1/ETO as a modifier of the epigenotype and sensitivity of myeloid cells to inhibitors of DNMTs and HDACs appear warranted.
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