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1.  Alternative Polyadenylation Allows Differential Negative Feedback of Human miRNA miR-579 on Its Host Gene ZFR 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(3):e0121507.
About half of the known miRNA genes are located within protein-coding host genes, and are thus subject to co-transcription. Accumulating data indicate that this coupling may be an intrinsic mechanism to directly regulate the host gene’s expression, constituting a negative feedback loop. Inevitably, the cell requires a yet largely unknown repertoire of methods to regulate this control mechanism. We propose APA as one possible mechanism by which negative feedback of intronic miRNA on their host genes might be regulated. Using in-silico analyses, we found that host genes that contain seed matching sites for their intronic miRNAs yield longer 32UTRs with more polyadenylation sites. Additionally, the distribution of polyadenylation signals differed significantly between these host genes and host genes of miRNAs that do not contain potential miRNA binding sites. We then transferred these in-silico results to a biological example and investigated the relationship between ZFR and its intronic miRNA miR-579 in a U87 cell line model. We found that ZFR is targeted by its intronic miRNA miR-579 and that alternative polyadenylation allows differential targeting. We additionally used bioinformatics analyses and RNA-Seq to evaluate a potential cross-talk between intronic miRNAs and alternative polyadenylation. CPSF2, a gene previously associated with alternative polyadenylation signal recognition, might be linked to intronic miRNA negative feedback by altering polyadenylation signal utilization.
PMCID: PMC4370670  PMID: 25799583
2.  Dermcidin exerts its oncogenic effects in breast cancer via modulation of ERBB signaling 
BMC Cancer  2015;15:70.
We previously identified dermicidin (DCD), which encodes a growth and survival factor, as a gene amplified and overexpressed in a subset of breast tumors. Patients with DCD-positive breast cancer have worse prognostic features. We therefore searched for specific molecular signatures in DCD-positive breast carcinomas from patients and representative cell lines.
DCD expression was evaluated by qRT-PCR, immunohistochemical and immunoblot assays in normal and neoplastic tissues and cell lines. To investigate the role of DCD in breast tumorigenesis, we analyzed the consequences of its downregulation in human breast cancer cell lines using three specific shRNA lentiviral vectors. Genes up- and down-regulated by DCD were identified using Affymetrix microarray and analyzed by MetaCore Platform.
We identified DCD splice variant (DCD-SV) that is co-expressed with DCD in primary invasive breast carcinomas and in other tissue types and cell lines. DCD expression in breast tumors from patients with clinical follow up data correlated with high histological grade, HER2 amplification and luminal subtype. We found that loss of DCD expression led to reduced cell proliferation, resistance to apoptosis, and suppressed tumorigenesis in immunodeficient mice. Network analysis of gene expression data revealed perturbed ERBB signaling following DCD shRNA expression including changes in the expression of ERBB receptors and their ligands.
These findings imply that DCD promotes breast tumorigenesis via modulation of ERBB signaling pathways. As ERBB signaling is also important for neural survival, HER2+ breast tumors may highjack DCD’s neural survival-promoting functions to promote tumorigenesis.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12885-015-1022-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4353460  PMID: 25879571
Breast cancer; Dermcidin; ERBB signaling; Oncogene; Apoptosis
3.  Overexpression of miR-21-5p as a predictive marker for complete tumor regression to neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy in rectal cancer patients 
BMC Medical Genomics  2014;7:68.
Neoadjuvant chemoradiotherapy (nCRT) followed by radical surgery is the preferred treatment strategy for locally advanced rectal cancer. However, complete tumor regression is observed in a significant proportion of patients after nCRT, making them ideal candidates for alternative treatment strategies to this considerably morbid procedure. Identification of such patients based on clinical findings (complete clinical response - cCR) is difficult mainly because it relies on subjective clinical and imaging studies. Our goal was to identify biomarkers capable of predicting complete response to nCRT.
We analyzed miRNA expression profile using deep sequencing in rectal tumor biopsies prior to nCRT. Differential expression was investigated by EdgeR for a training (n = 27) and a validation (n = 16) set of patients to identify miRNAs associated with treatment response (complete vs. incomplete). In vitro experiments with two cancer cell lines were also performed in order to evaluate the possible role of miRNAs on response to nCRT.
We found 4 miRNAs differentially expressed between complete and incomplete responders to nCRT. In addition, validation was performed using an independent group of patients and miR-21-5p was confirmed as being overexpressed in complete responders. Overall sensitivity and specificity of miR-21-5p expression in predicting complete response to nCRT was 78% and 86% respectively. Interestingly, in a subset of patients with cCR followed by early local recurrence, the expression level of miR-21-5p was considerably low, similarly to incomplete responders. We also found SATB1, a miR-21-5p target gene and known multidrug resistance gene, whose expression was inversely correlated with miR-21-5p expression. Finally, we performed functional experiments and showed that miR-21-5p and SATB1 may be directly involved with poor response to nCRT in rectal cancer patients.
This study suggests miR-21-5p as a promising predictive biomarker, which should aid in the selection of patients with cCR to nCRT that potentially could be spared from radical surgery.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12920-014-0068-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4279677  PMID: 25496125
miRNA; Predictive biomarker; Rectal cancer; miR-21-5p; SATB1; Chemoradiotherapy
4.  Mutational analysis of genes coding for cell surface proteins in colorectal cancer cell lines reveal novel altered pathways, druggable mutations and mutated epitopes for targeted therapy 
Oncotarget  2014;5(19):9199-9213.
We carried out a mutational analysis of 3,594 genes coding for cell surface proteins (Surfaceome) in 23 colorectal cancer cell lines, searching for new altered pathways, druggable mutations and mutated epitopes for targeted therapy in colorectal cancer. A total of 3,944 somatic non-synonymous substitutions and 595 InDels, occurring in 2,061 (57%) Surfaceome genes were catalogued. We identified 48 genes not previously described as mutated in colorectal tumors in the TCGA database, including genes that are mutated and expressed in >10% of the cell lines (SEMA4C, FGFRL1, PKD1, FAM38A, WDR81, TMEM136, SLC36A1, SLC26A6, IGFLR1). Analysis of these genes uncovered important roles for FGF and SEMA4 signaling in colorectal cancer with possible therapeutic implications. We also found that cell lines express on average 11 druggable mutations, including frequent mutations (>20%) in the receptor tyrosine kinases AXL and EPHA2, which have not been previously considered as potential targets for colorectal cancer. Finally, we identified 82 cell surface mutated epitopes, however expression of only 30% of these epitopes was detected in our cell lines. Notwithstanding, 92% of these epitopes were expressed in cell lines with the mutator phenotype, opening new venues for the use of “general” immune checkpoint drugs in this subset of patients.
PMCID: PMC4253428  PMID: 25193853
colorectal cancer; targeted therapy; cell surface proteins; somatic mutations
5.  Fibronectin Affects Transient MMP2 Gene Expression through DNA Demethylation Changes in Non-Invasive Breast Cancer Cell Lines 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e105806.
Metastasis accounts for more than 90% of cancer deaths. Cells from primary solid tumors may invade adjacent tissues and migrate to distant sites where they establish new colonies. The tumor microenvironment is now recognized as an important participant in the signaling that induces cancer cell migration. An essential process for metastasis is extracellular matrix (ECM) degradation by metalloproteases (MMPs), which allows tumor cells to invade local tissues and to reach blood vessels. The members of this protein family include gelatinase A, or MMP-2, which is responsible for the degradation of type IV collagen, the most abundant component of the basal membrane, that separates epithelial cells in the stroma. It is known that fibronectin is capable of promoting the expression of MMP-2 in MCF7 breast cancer cells in culture. In addition, it was already shown that the MMP2 gene expression is regulated by epigenetic mechanisms. In this work, we showed that fibronectin was able to induce MMP2 expression by 30% decrease in its promoter methylation. In addition, a histone marker for an open chromatin conformation was significantly increased. These results indicate a new role for fibronectin in the communication between cancer cells and the ECM, promoting epigenetic modifications.
PMCID: PMC4160184  PMID: 25208219
6.  Galectin-3 disruption impaired tumoral angiogenesis by reducing VEGF secretion from TGFβ1-induced macrophages 
Cancer Medicine  2014;3(2):201-214.
In order to study the role of galectin-3 in tumor angiogenesis associated with tumor-associated macrophages (TAM) and tumor parenchyma, the galectin-3 expression was reconstituted in Tm1 melanoma cell line that lacks this protein. Galectin-3-expressing cells (Tm1G3) and mock-vector transfected cells (Tm1N3) were injected into wild-type (WT) and galectin-3 knockout (KO) C57Bl/6 mice. Tumors originated from Tm1G3 were larger in tumor volume with enlarged functional vessels, decreased necrotic areas, and increased vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) protein levels. Galectin-3-nonexpressing-cells injected into WT and KO showed increased levels of transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGFβ1) and, in WT animals this feature was also accompanied by increased VEGFR2 expression and its phosphorylation. In KO animals, tumors derived from galectin-3-expressing cells were infiltrated by CD68+-cells, whereas in tumors derived from galectin-3-nonexpressing-cells, CD68+ cells failed to infiltrate tumors and accumulated in the periphery of the tumor mass. In vitro studies showed that Tm1G3 secreted more VEGF than Tm1N3 cells. In the latter case, TGFβ1 induced VEGF production. Basal secretion of VEGF was higher in WT-bone marrow-derived macrophages (BMDM) than in KO-BMDM. TGFβ1 induced secretion of VEGF only in WT-BMDM. Tm1G3-induced tumors had the Arginase I mRNA increased, which upregulated alternative macrophage (M2)/TAM induction. M2 stimuli, such as interleukin-4 (IL4) and TGFβ1, increased Arginase I protein levels and galectin-3 expression in WT- BMDM, but not in cells from KO mice. Hence, we report that galectin-3 disruption in tumor stroma and parenchyma decreases angiogenesis through interfering with the responses of macrophages to the interdependent VEGF and TGFβ1 signaling pathways.
PMCID: PMC3987071  PMID: 24421272
Angiogenesis; galectin-3; melanoma; tumor microenvironment
7.  The Human Cell Surfaceome of Breast Tumors 
BioMed Research International  2013;2013:976816.
Introduction. Cell surface proteins are ideal targets for cancer therapy and diagnosis. We have identified a set of more than 3700 genes that code for transmembrane proteins believed to be at human cell surface. Methods. We used a high-throuput qPCR system for the analysis of 573 cell surface protein-coding genes in 12 primary breast tumors, 8 breast cell lines, and 21 normal human tissues including breast. To better understand the role of these genes in breast tumors, we used a series of bioinformatics strategies to integrates different type, of the datasets, such as KEGG, protein-protein interaction databases, ONCOMINE, and data from, literature. Results. We found that at least 77 genes are overexpressed in breast primary tumors while at least 2 of them have also a restricted expression pattern in normal tissues. We found common signaling pathways that may be regulated in breast tumors through the overexpression of these cell surface protein-coding genes. Furthermore, a comparison was made between the genes found in this report and other genes associated with features clinically relevant for breast tumorigenesis. Conclusions. The expression profiling generated in this study, together with an integrative bioinformatics analysis, allowed us to identify putative targets for breast tumors.
PMCID: PMC3781997  PMID: 24195083
8.  Gene Copy-Number Polymorphism Caused by Retrotransposition in Humans 
PLoS Genetics  2013;9(1):e1003242.
The era of whole-genome sequencing has revealed that gene copy-number changes caused by duplication and deletion events have important evolutionary, functional, and phenotypic consequences. Recent studies have therefore focused on revealing the extent of variation in copy-number within natural populations of humans and other species. These studies have found a large number of copy-number variants (CNVs) in humans, many of which have been shown to have clinical or evolutionary importance. For the most part, these studies have failed to detect an important class of gene copy-number polymorphism: gene duplications caused by retrotransposition, which result in a new intron-less copy of the parental gene being inserted into a random location in the genome. Here we describe a computational approach leveraging next-generation sequence data to detect gene copy-number variants caused by retrotransposition (retroCNVs), and we report the first genome-wide analysis of these variants in humans. We find that retroCNVs account for a substantial fraction of gene copy-number differences between any two individuals. Moreover, we show that these variants may often result in expressed chimeric transcripts, underscoring their potential for the evolution of novel gene functions. By locating the insertion sites of these duplicates, we are able to show that retroCNVs have had an important role in recent human adaptation, and we also uncover evidence that positive selection may currently be driving multiple retroCNVs toward fixation. Together these findings imply that retroCNVs are an especially important class of polymorphism, and that future studies of copy-number variation should search for these variants in order to illuminate their potential evolutionary and functional relevance.
Author Summary
Recent studies of human genetic variation have revealed that, in addition to differing at single nucleotide polymorphisms, individuals differ in copy-number at many regions of the genome. These copy-number variants (CNVs) are caused by duplication or deletion events and often affect functional sequences such as genes. Efforts to reveal the functional impact of CNVs have identified many variants increasing the risk of various disorders, and some that are adaptive. However, these studies mostly fail to detect gene duplications caused by retrotransposition, in which an mRNA transcript is reverse-transcribed and reinserted into the genome, yielding a new intron-less gene copy. Here we describe a method leveraging next-generation sequence data to accurately detect gene copy-number variants caused by retrotransposition, or retroCNVs, and apply this method to hundreds of whole-genome sequences from three different human subpopulations. We find that these variants account for a substantial number of gene copy-number differences between individuals, and that gene retrotransposition may often result in both deleterious and beneficial mutations. Indeed, we present evidence that two of these new gene duplications may be adaptive. These results imply that retroCNVs are an especially important class of CNV and should be included in future studies of human copy-number variation.
PMCID: PMC3554589  PMID: 23359205
9.  Epigenetic Changes of CXCR4 and Its Ligand CXCL12 as Prognostic Factors for Sporadic Breast Cancer 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29461.
Chemokines and their receptors are involved in the development and cancer progression. The chemokine CXCL12 interacts with its receptor, CXCR4, to promote cellular adhesion, survival, proliferation and migration. The CXCR4 gene is upregulated in several types of cancers, including skin, lung, pancreas, brain and breast tumors. In pancreatic cancer and melanoma, CXCR4 expression is regulated by DNA methylation within its promoter region. In this study we examined the role of cytosine methylation in the regulation of CXCR4 expression in breast cancer cell lines and also correlated the methylation pattern with the clinicopathological aspects of sixty-nine primary breast tumors from a cohort of Brazilian women. RT-PCR showed that the PMC-42, MCF7 and MDA-MB-436 breast tumor cell lines expressed high levels of CXCR4. Conversely, the MDA-MB-435 cell line only expressed CXCR4 after treatment with 5-Aza-CdR, which suggests that CXCR4 expression is regulated by DNA methylation. To confirm this hypothesis, a 184 bp fragment of the CXCR4 gene promoter region was cloned after sodium bisulfite DNA treatment. Sequencing data showed that cell lines that expressed CXCR4 had only 15% of methylated CpG dinucleotides, while the cell line that not have CXCR4 expression, had a high density of methylation (91%). Loss of DNA methylation in the CXCR4 promoter was detected in 67% of the breast cancer analyzed. The absence of CXCR4 methylation was associated with the tumor stage, size, histological grade, lymph node status, ESR1 methylation and CXCL12 methylation, metastasis and patient death. Kaplan-Meier curves demonstrated that patients with an unmethylated CXCR4 promoter had a poorer overall survival and disease-free survival. Furthermore, patients with both CXCL12 methylation and unmethylated CXCR4 had a shorter overall survival and disease-free survival. These findings suggest that the DNA methylation status of both CXCR4 and CXCL12 genes could be used as a biomarker for prognosis in breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC3248418  PMID: 22220212
10.  Targeting MAGE-C1/CT7 Expression Increases Cell Sensitivity to the Proteasome Inhibitor Bortezomib in Multiple Myeloma Cell Lines 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27707.
The MAGE-C1/CT7 encodes a cancer/testis antigen (CTA), is located on the chromosomal region Xq26–27 and is highly polymorphic in humans. MAGE-C1/CT7 is frequently expressed in multiple myeloma (MM) that may be a potential target for immunotherapy in this still incurable disease. MAGEC1/CT7 expression is restricted to malignant plasma cells and it has been suggested that MAGE-C1/CT7 might play a pathogenic role in MM; however, the exact function this protein in the pathophysiology of MM is not yet understood. Our objectives were (1) to clarify the role of MAGE-C1/CT7 in the control of cellular proliferation and cell cycle in myeloma and (2) to evaluate the impact of silencing MAGE-C1/CT7 on myeloma cells treated with bortezomib. Myeloma cell line SKO-007 was transduced for stable expression of shRNA-MAGE-C1/CT7. Downregulation of MAGE-C1/CT7 was confirmed by real time quantitative PCR and western blot. Functional assays included cell proliferation, cell invasion, cell cycle analysis and apoptosis. Western blot showed a 70–80% decrease in MAGE-C1/CT7 protein expression in inhibited cells (shRNA-MAGE-C1/CT7) when compared with controls. Functional assays did not indicate a difference in cell proliferation and DNA synthesis when inhibited cells were compared with controls. However, we found a decreased percentage of cells in the G2/M phase of the cell cycle among inhibited cells, but not in the controls (p<0.05). When myeloma cells were treated with bortezomib, we observed a 48% reduction of cells in the G2/M phase among inhibited cells while controls showed 13% (empty vector) and 9% (ineffective shRNA) reduction, respectively (p<0.01). Furthermore, inhibited cells treated with bortezomib showed an increased percentage of apoptotic cells (Annexin V+/PI-) in comparison with bortezomib-treated controls (p<0.001). We found that MAGE-C1/CT7 protects SKO-007 cells against bortezomib-induced apoptosis. Therefore, we could speculate that MAGE-C1/CT7 gene therapy could be a strategy for future therapies in MM, in particular in combination with proteasome inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC3218015  PMID: 22110734
11.  Correlation of MGMT promoter methylation status with gene and protein expression levels in glioblastoma 
Clinics  2011;66(10):1747-1755.
1) To correlate the methylation status of the O6-methylguanine-DNA-methyltransferase (MGMT) promoter to its gene and protein expression levels in glioblastoma and 2) to determine the most reliable method for using MGMT to predict the response to adjuvant therapy in patients with glioblastoma.
The MGMT gene is epigenetically silenced by promoter hypermethylation in gliomas, and this modification has emerged as a relevant predictor of therapeutic response.
Fifty-one cases of glioblastoma were analyzed for MGMT promoter methylation by methylation-specific PCR and pyrosequencing, gene expression by real time polymerase chain reaction, and protein expression by immunohistochemistry.
MGMT promoter methylation was found in 43.1% of glioblastoma by methylation-specific PCR and 38.8% by pyrosequencing. A low level of MGMT gene expression was correlated with positive MGMT promoter methylation (p = 0.001). However, no correlation was found between promoter methylation and MGMT protein expression (p = 0.297). The mean survival time of glioblastoma patients submitted to adjuvant therapy was significantly higher among patients with MGMT promoter methylation (log rank = 0.025 by methylation-specific PCR and 0.004 by pyrosequencing), and methylation was an independent predictive factor that was associated with improved prognosis by multivariate analysis.
MGMT promoter methylation status was a more reliable predictor of susceptibility to adjuvant therapy and prognosis of glioblastoma than were MGMT protein or gene expression levels. Methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction and pyrosequencing methods were both sensitive methods for determining MGMT promoter methylation status using DNA extracted from frozen tissue.
PMCID: PMC3180167  PMID: 22012047
Glioblastoma; MGMT promoter methylation; MGMT gene; MGMT protein; Prognosis
12.  Distinct patterns of somatic alterations in a lymphoblastoid and a tumor genome derived from the same individual 
Nucleic Acids Research  2011;39(14):6056-6068.
Although patterns of somatic alterations have been reported for tumor genomes, little is known on how they compare with alterations present in non-tumor genomes. A comparison of the two would be crucial to better characterize the genetic alterations driving tumorigenesis. We sequenced the genomes of a lymphoblastoid (HCC1954BL) and a breast tumor (HCC1954) cell line derived from the same patient and compared the somatic alterations present in both. The lymphoblastoid genome presents a comparable number and similar spectrum of nucleotide substitutions to that found in the tumor genome. However, a significant difference in the ratio of non-synonymous to synonymous substitutions was observed between both genomes (P = 0.031). Protein–protein interaction analysis revealed that mutations in the tumor genome preferentially affect hub-genes (P = 0.0017) and are co-selected to present synergistic functions (P < 0.0001). KEGG analysis showed that in the tumor genome most mutated genes were organized into signaling pathways related to tumorigenesis. No such organization or synergy was observed in the lymphoblastoid genome. Our results indicate that endogenous mutagens and replication errors can generate the overall number of mutations required to drive tumorigenesis and that it is the combination rather than the frequency of mutations that is crucial to complete tumorigenic transformation.
PMCID: PMC3152357  PMID: 21493686
13.  Systematic detection of putative tumor suppressor genes through the combined use of exome and transcriptome sequencing 
Genome Biology  2010;11(11):R114.
To identify potential tumor suppressor genes, genome-wide data from exome and transcriptome sequencing were combined to search for genes with loss of heterozygosity and allele-specific expression. The analysis was conducted on the breast cancer cell line HCC1954, and a lymphoblast cell line from the same individual, HCC1954BL.
By comparing exome sequences from the two cell lines, we identified loss of heterozygosity events at 403 genes in HCC1954 and at one gene in HCC1954BL. The combination of exome and transcriptome sequence data also revealed 86 and 50 genes with allele specific expression events in HCC1954 and HCC1954BL, which comprise 5.4% and 2.6% of genes surveyed, respectively. Many of these genes identified by loss of heterozygosity and allele-specific expression are known or putative tumor suppressor genes, such as BRCA1, MSH3 and SETX, which participate in DNA repair pathways.
Our results demonstrate that the combined application of high throughput sequencing to exome and allele-specific transcriptome analysis can reveal genes with known tumor suppressor characteristics, and a shortlist of novel candidates for the study of tumor suppressor activities.
PMCID: PMC3156953  PMID: 21108794
14.  Insights into gliomagenesis: systems biology unravels key pathways 
Genome Medicine  2009;1(10):101.
Technological advances have enabled a better characterization of all the genetic alterations in tumors. A picture that emerges is that tumor cells are much more genetically heterogeneous than originally expected. Thus, a critical issue in cancer genomics is the identification of the genetic alterations that drive the genesis of a tumor. Recently, a systems biology approach has been used to characterize such alterations and find associations between them and the process of gliomagenesis. Here, we discuss some implications of this strategy for the development of new therapeutic and diagnostic protocols for cancer.
PMCID: PMC2784304  PMID: 19863775
15.  Random X Inactivation and Extensive Mosaicism in Human Placenta Revealed by Analysis of Allele-Specific Gene Expression along the X Chromosome 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(6):e10947.
Imprinted inactivation of the paternal X chromosome in marsupials is the primordial mechanism of dosage compensation for X-linked genes between females and males in Therians. In Eutherian mammals, X chromosome inactivation (XCI) evolved into a random process in cells from the embryo proper, where either the maternal or paternal X can be inactivated. However, species like mouse and bovine maintained imprinted XCI exclusively in extraembryonic tissues. The existence of imprinted XCI in humans remains controversial, with studies based on the analyses of only one or two X-linked genes in different extraembryonic tissues. Here we readdress this issue in human term placenta by performing a robust analysis of allele-specific expression of 22 X-linked genes, including XIST, using 27 SNPs in transcribed regions. We show that XCI is random in human placenta, and that this organ is arranged in relatively large patches of cells with either maternal or paternal inactive X. In addition, this analysis indicated heterogeneous maintenance of gene silencing along the inactive X, which combined with the extensive mosaicism found in placenta, can explain the lack of agreement among previous studies. Our results illustrate the differences of XCI mechanism between humans and mice, and highlight the importance of addressing the issue of imprinted XCI in other species in order to understand the evolution of dosage compensation in placental mammals.
PMCID: PMC2881032  PMID: 20532033
16.  Simultaneous CXCL12 and ESR1 CpG island hypermethylation correlates with poor prognosis in sporadic breast cancer 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:23.
CXCL12 is a chemokine that is constitutively expressed in many organs and tissues. CXCL12 promoter hypermethylation has been detected in primary breast tumours and contributes to their metastatic potential. It has been shown that the oestrogen receptor α (ESR1) gene can also be silenced by DNA methylation. In this study, we used methylation-specific PCR (MSP) to analyse the methylation status in two regions of the CXCL12 promoter and ESR1 in tumour cell lines and in primary breast tumour samples, and correlated our results with clinicopathological data.
First, we analysed CXCL12 expression in breast tumour cell lines by RT-PCR. We also used 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5-aza-CdR) treatment and DNA bisulphite sequencing to study the promoter methylation for a specific region of CXCL12 in breast tumour cell lines. We evaluated CXCL12 and ESR1 methylation in primary tumour samples by methylation-specific PCR (MSP). Finally, promoter hypermethylation of these genes was analysed using Fisher's exact test and correlated with clinicopathological data using the Chi square test, Kaplan-Meier survival analysis and Cox regression analysis.
CXCL12 promoter hypermethylation in the first region (island 2) and second region (island 4) was correlated with lack of expression of the gene in tumour cell lines. In the primary tumours, island 2 was hypermethylated in 14.5% of the samples and island 4 was hypermethylated in 54% of the samples. The ESR1 promoter was hypermethylated in 41% of breast tumour samples. In addition, the levels of ERα protein expression diminished with increased frequency of ESR1 methylation (p < 0.0001). This study also demonstrated that CXCL12 island 4 and ESR1 methylation occur simultaneously at a high frequency (p = 0.0220).
This is the first study showing a simultaneous involvement of epigenetic regulation for both CXCL12 and ESR1 genes in Brazilian women. The methylation status of both genes was significantly correlated with histologically advanced disease, the presence of metastases and death. Therefore, the methylation pattern of these genes could be used as a molecular marker for the prediction of breast cancer outcome.
PMCID: PMC2834618  PMID: 20109227
17.  Reduced transcription of TCOF1 in adult cells of Treacher Collins syndrome patients 
BMC Medical Genetics  2009;10:136.
Treacher Collins syndrome (TCS) is an autosomal dominant craniofacial disorder caused by frameshift deletions or duplications in the TCOF1 gene. These mutations cause premature termination codons, which are predicted to lead to mRNA degradation by nonsense mediated mRNA decay (NMD). Haploinsufficiency of the gene product (treacle) during embryonic development is the proposed molecular mechanism underlying TCS. However, it is still unknown if TCOF1 expression levels are decreased in post-embryonic human cells.
We have estimated TCOF1 transcript levels through real time PCR in mRNA obtained from leucocytes and mesenchymal cells of TCS patients (n = 23) and controls (n = 18). Mutational screening and analysis of NMD were performed by direct sequencing of gDNA and cDNA, respectively.
All the 23 patients had typical clinical features of the syndrome and pathogenic mutations were detected in 19 of them. We demonstrated that the expression level of TCOF1 is 18-31% lower in patients than in controls (p < 0.05), even if we exclude the patients in whom we did not detect the pathogenic mutation. We also observed that the mutant allele is usually less abundant than the wild type one in mesenchymal cells.
This is the first study to report decreased expression levels of TCOF1 in TCS adult human cells, but it is still unknown if this finding is associated to any phenotype in adulthood. In addition, as we demonstrated that alleles harboring the pathogenic mutations have lower expression, we herein corroborate the current hypothesis of NMD of the mutant transcript as the explanation for diminished levels of TCOF1 expression. Further, considering that TCOF1 deficiency in adult cells could be associated to pathologic clinical findings, it will be important to verify if TCS patients have an impairment in adult stem cell properties, as this can reduce the efficiency of plastic surgery results during rehabilitation of these patients.
PMCID: PMC2801500  PMID: 20003452
18.  Epigenetic Silencing of CRABP2 and MX1 in Head and Neck Tumors12 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2009;11(12):1329-1339.
Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is a heterogeneous disease affecting the epithelium of the oral cavity, pharynx and larynx. Conditions of most patients are diagnosed at late stages of the disease, and no sensitive and specific predictors of aggressive behavior have been identified yet. Therefore, early detection and prognostic biomarkers are highly desirable for a more rational management of the disease. Hypermethylation of CpG islands is one of the most important epigenetic mechanisms that leads to gene silencing in tumors and has been extensively used for the identification of biomarkers. In this study, we combined rapid subtractive hybridization and microarray analysis in a hierarchical manner to select genes that are putatively reactivated by the demethylating agent 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine (5Aza-dC) in HNSCC cell lines (FaDu, UM-SCC-14A, UM-SCC-17A, UM-SCC-38A). This combined analysis identified 78 genes, 35 of which were reactivated in at least 2 cell lines and harbored a CpG island at their 5′ region. Reactivation of 3 of these 35 genes (CRABP2, MX1, and SLC15A3) was confirmed by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR; fold change, ≥3). Bisulfite sequencing of their CpG islands revealed that they are indeed differentially methylated in the HNSCC cell lines. Using methylation-specific PCR, we detected a higher frequency of CRABP2 (58.1% for region 1) and MX1 (46.3%) hypermethylation in primary HNSCC when compared with lymphocytes from healthy individuals. Finally, absence of the CRABP2 protein was associated with decreased disease-free survival rates, supporting a potential use of CRABP2 expression as a prognostic biomarker for HNSCC patients.
PMCID: PMC2794514  PMID: 20019841
19.  ADAM33 gene silencing by promoter hypermethylation as a molecular marker in breast invasive lobular carcinoma 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:80.
ADAM33 protein is a member of the family of transmembrane glycoproteins composed of multidomains. ADAM family members have different activities, such as proteolysis and adhesion, making them good candidates to mediate the extracellular matrix remodelling and changes in cellular adhesion that characterise certain pathologies and cancer development. It was reported that one family member, ADAM23, is down-regulated by promoter hypermethylation. This seems to correlate with tumour progression and metastasis in breast cancer. In this study, we explored the involvement of ADAM33, another ADAM family member, in breast cancer.
First, we analysed ADAM33 expression in breast tumour cell lines by RT-PCR and western blotting. We also used 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5azadCR) treatment and DNA bisulphite sequencing to study the promoter methylation of ADAM33 in breast tumour cell lines. We evaluated ADAM33 methylation in primary tumour samples by methylation specific PCR (MSP). Finally, ADAM33 promoter hypermethylation was correlated with clinicopathological data using the chi-square test and Fisher's exact test.
The expression analysis of ADAM33 in breast tumour cell lines by RT-PCR revealed gene silencing in 65% of tumour cell lines. The corresponding lack of ADAM33 protein was confirmed by western blotting. We also used 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5-aza-dCR) demethylation and bisulphite sequencing methodologies to confirm that gene silencing is due to ADAM33 promoter hypermethylation. Using MSP, we detected ADAM33 promoter hypermethylation in 40% of primary breast tumour samples. The correlation between methylation pattern and patient's clinicopathological data was not significantly associated with histological grade; tumour stage (TNM); tumour size; ER, PR or ERBB2 status; lymph node status; metastasis or recurrence. Methylation frequency in invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) was 76.2% compared with 25.5% in invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), and this difference was statistically significant (p = 0.0002).
ADAM33 gene silencing may be related to the discohesive histological appearance of ILCs. We suggest that ADAM33 promoter methylation may be a useful molecular marker for differentiating ILC and IDC.
PMCID: PMC2660367  PMID: 19267929
20.  CTdatabase: a knowledge-base of high-throughput and curated data on cancer-testis antigens 
Nucleic Acids Research  2008;37(Database issue):D816-D819.
The potency of the immune response has still to be harnessed effectively to combat human cancers. However, the discovery of T-cell targets in melanomas and other tumors has raised the possibility that cancer vaccines can be used to induce a therapeutically effective immune response against cancer. The targets, cancer-testis (CT) antigens, are immunogenic proteins preferentially expressed in normal gametogenic tissues and different histological types of tumors. Therapeutic cancer vaccines directed against CT antigens are currently in late-stage clinical trials testing whether they can delay or prevent recurrence of lung cancer and melanoma following surgical removal of primary tumors. CT antigens constitute a large, but ill-defined, family of proteins that exhibit a remarkably restricted expression. Currently, there is a considerable amount of information about these proteins, but the data are scattered through the literature and in several bioinformatic databases. The database presented here, CTdatabase (, unifies this knowledge to facilitate both the mining of the existing deluge of data, and the identification of proteins alleged to be CT antigens, but that do not have their characteristic restricted expression pattern. CTdatabase is more than a repository of CT antigen data, since all the available information was carefully curated and annotated with most data being specifically processed for CT antigens and stored locally. Starting from a compilation of known CT antigens, CTdatabase provides basic information including gene names and aliases, RefSeq accession numbers, genomic location, known splicing variants, gene duplications and additional family members. Gene expression at the mRNA level in normal and tumor tissues has been collated from publicly available data obtained by several different technologies. Manually curated data related to mRNA and protein expression, and antigen-specific immune responses in cancer patients are also available, together with links to PubMed for relevant CT antigen articles.
PMCID: PMC2686577  PMID: 18838390
21.  Genetic diversity of Leishmania amazonensis strains isolated in northeastern Brazil as revealed by DNA sequencing, PCR-based analyses and molecular karyotyping 
Leishmania (Leishmania) amazonensis infection in man results in a clinical spectrum of disease manifestations ranging from cutaneous to mucosal or visceral involvement. In the present study, we have investigated the genetic variability of 18 L. amazonensis strains isolated in northeastern Brazil from patients with different clinical manifestations of leishmaniasis. Parasite DNA was analyzed by sequencing of the ITS flanking the 5.8 S subunit of the ribosomal RNA genes, by RAPD and SSR-PCR and by PFGE followed by hybridization with gene-specific probes.
ITS sequencing and PCR-based methods revealed genetic heterogeneity among the L. amazonensis isolates examined and molecular karyotyping also showed variation in the chromosome size of different isolates. Unrooted genetic trees separated strains into different groups.
These results indicate that L. amazonensis strains isolated from leishmaniasis patients from northeastern Brazil are genetically diverse, however, no correlation between genetic polymorphism and phenotype were found.
PMCID: PMC1919383  PMID: 17584940
22.  Sense-antisense pairs in mammals: functional and evolutionary considerations 
Genome Biology  2007;8(3):R40.
Analysis of a catalog of S-AS pairs in the human and mouse genomes revealed several putative roles for natural antisense transcripts and showed that some are artifacts of cDNA library construction.
A significant number of genes in mammalian genomes are being found to have natural antisense transcripts (NATs). These sense-antisense (S-AS) pairs are believed to be involved in several cellular phenomena.
Here, we generated a catalog of S-AS pairs occurring in the human and mouse genomes by analyzing different sources of expressed sequences available in the public domain plus 122 massively parallel signature sequencing (MPSS) libraries from a variety of human and mouse tissues. Using this dataset of almost 20,000 S-AS pairs in both genomes we investigated, in a computational and experimental way, several putative roles that have been assigned to NATs, including gene expression regulation. Furthermore, these global analyses allowed us to better dissect and propose new roles for NATs. Surprisingly, we found that a significant fraction of NATs are artifacts produced by genomic priming during cDNA library construction.
We propose an evolutionary and functional model in which alternative polyadenylation and retroposition account for the origin of a significant number of functional S-AS pairs in mammalian genomes.
PMCID: PMC1868933  PMID: 17371592
23.  Swine and Poultry Pathogens: the Complete Genome Sequences of Two Strains of Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae and a Strain of Mycoplasma synoviae†  
Vasconcelos, Ana Tereza R. | Ferreira, Henrique B. | Bizarro, Cristiano V. | Bonatto, Sandro L. | Carvalho, Marcos O. | Pinto, Paulo M. | Almeida, Darcy F. | Almeida, Luiz G. P. | Almeida, Rosana | Alves-Filho, Leonardo | Assunção, Enedina N. | Azevedo, Vasco A. C. | Bogo, Maurício R. | Brigido, Marcelo M. | Brocchi, Marcelo | Burity, Helio A. | Camargo, Anamaria A. | Camargo, Sandro S. | Carepo, Marta S. | Carraro, Dirce M. | de Mattos Cascardo, Júlio C. | Castro, Luiza A. | Cavalcanti, Gisele | Chemale, Gustavo | Collevatti, Rosane G. | Cunha, Cristina W. | Dallagiovanna, Bruno | Dambrós, Bibiana P. | Dellagostin, Odir A. | Falcão, Clarissa | Fantinatti-Garboggini, Fabiana | Felipe, Maria S. S. | Fiorentin, Laurimar | Franco, Gloria R. | Freitas, Nara S. A. | Frías, Diego | Grangeiro, Thalles B. | Grisard, Edmundo C. | Guimarães, Claudia T. | Hungria, Mariangela | Jardim, Sílvia N. | Krieger, Marco A. | Laurino, Jomar P. | Lima, Lucymara F. A. | Lopes, Maryellen I. | Loreto, Élgion L. S. | Madeira, Humberto M. F. | Manfio, Gilson P. | Maranhão, Andrea Q. | Martinkovics, Christyanne T. | Medeiros, Sílvia R. B. | Moreira, Miguel A. M. | Neiva, Márcia | Ramalho-Neto, Cicero E. | Nicolás, Marisa F. | Oliveira, Sergio C. | Paixão, Roger F. C. | Pedrosa, Fábio O. | Pena, Sérgio D. J. | Pereira, Maristela | Pereira-Ferrari, Lilian | Piffer, Itamar | Pinto, Luciano S. | Potrich, Deise P. | Salim, Anna C. M. | Santos, Fabrício R. | Schmitt, Renata | Schneider, Maria P. C. | Schrank, Augusto | Schrank, Irene S. | Schuck, Adriana F. | Seuanez, Hector N. | Silva, Denise W. | Silva, Rosane | Silva, Sérgio C. | Soares, Célia M. A. | Souza, Kelly R. L. | Souza, Rangel C. | Staats, Charley C. | Steffens, Maria B. R. | Teixeira, Santuza M. R. | Urmenyi, Turan P. | Vainstein, Marilene H. | Zuccherato, Luciana W. | Simpson, Andrew J. G. | Zaha, Arnaldo
Journal of Bacteriology  2005;187(16):5568-5577.
This work reports the results of analyses of three complete mycoplasma genomes, a pathogenic (7448) and a nonpathogenic (J) strain of the swine pathogen Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae and a strain of the avian pathogen Mycoplasma synoviae; the genome sizes of the three strains were 920,079 bp, 897,405 bp, and 799,476 bp, respectively. These genomes were compared with other sequenced mycoplasma genomes reported in the literature to examine several aspects of mycoplasma evolution. Strain-specific regions, including integrative and conjugal elements, and genome rearrangements and alterations in adhesin sequences were observed in the M. hyopneumoniae strains, and all of these were potentially related to pathogenicity. Genomic comparisons revealed that reduction in genome size implied loss of redundant metabolic pathways, with maintenance of alternative routes in different species. Horizontal gene transfer was consistently observed between M. synoviae and Mycoplasma gallisepticum. Our analyses indicated a likely transfer event of hemagglutinin-coding DNA sequences from M. gallisepticum to M. synoviae.
PMCID: PMC1196056  PMID: 16077101
24.  Colorectal Cancer “Methylator Phenotype”: Fact or Artifact?1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2005;7(4):331-335.
It has been proposed that human colorectal tumors can be classified into two groups: one in which methylation is rare, and another with methylation of several loci associated with a “CpG island methylated phenotype (CIMP),” characterized by preferential proximal location in the colon, but otherwise poorly defined. There is considerable overlap between this putative methylator phenotype and the well-known mutator phenotype associated with microsatellite instability (MSI). We have examined hypermethylation of the promoter region of five genes (DAPK, MGMT, hMLH1, p16INK4a, and p14ARF) in 106 primary colorectal cancers. A graph depicting the frequency of methylated loci in the series of tumors showed a continuous, monotonically decreasing distribution quite different from the previously claimed discontinuity. We observed a significant association between the presence of three or more methylated loci and the proximal location of the tumors. However, if we remove from analysis the tumors with hMLH1 methylation or those with MSI, the significance vanishes, suggesting that the association between multiple methylations and proximal location was indirect due to the correlation with MSI. Thus, our data do not support the independent existence of the so-called methylator phenotype and suggest that it rather may represent a statistical artifact caused by confounding of associations.
PMCID: PMC1501152  PMID: 15967110
CpG methylation; phenotype; colorectal; cancer; microsatellite instability
25.  The impact of SNPs on the interpretation of SAGE and MPSS experimental data 
Nucleic Acids Research  2004;32(20):6104-6110.
Serial Analysis of Gene Expression (SAGE) and Massively Parallel Signature Sequencing (MPSS) are powerful techniques for gene expression analysis. A crucial step in analyzing SAGE and MPSS data is the assignment of experimentally obtained tags to a known transcript. However, tag to transcript assignment is not a straightforward process since alternative tags for a given transcript can also be experimentally obtained. Here, we have evaluated the impact of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) on the generation of alternative SAGE and MPSS tags. This was achieved through the construction of a reference database of SNP-associated alternative tags, which has been integrated with SAGE Genie. A total of 2020 SNP-associated alternative tags were catalogued in our reference database and at least one SNP-associated alternative tag was observed for ∼8.6% of all known human genes. A significant fraction (61.9%) of these alternative tags matched a list of experimentally obtained tags, validating their existence. In addition, the origin of four out of five SNP-associated alternative MPSS tags was experimentally confirmed through the use of the GLGI-MPSS protocol (Generation of Long cDNA fragments for Gene Identification). The availability of our SNP-associated alternative tag database will certainly improve the interpretation of SAGE and MPSS experiments.
PMCID: PMC534621  PMID: 15562001

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