Retention of unmethylated CpG island alleles in human diploid fibroblast x fibrosarcoma hybrids expressing high levels of DNA methyltransferase

Steven J. Kuerbitz, Stephen B. Baylin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The mechanisms underlying ectopic methylation of CpG islands in neoplastic cells are poorly understood. One determinant may be the increased expression of DNA methyltransferase (DNA MTase) observed frequently in neoplastic cells. To evaluate the role of DNA MTase overexpression in aberrant CpG island methylation, we assessed methylation of fibroblast- derived CpG islands in human diploid fibroblast x fibrosarcoma hybrid cell lines. Each of six independently derived, immortalized hybrid cell lines exhibited a high level of DNA MTase expression, comparable to that of the fibrosarcoma parental line. The methylation status of five CpG island loci, each of which was methylated extensively in the fibrosarcoma parental cells but not in the fibroblasts, was then determined in the hybrid cell lines. The patterns of methylation were consistent and highly locus dependent among the hybrid lines. Unmethylated alleles were retained stably at three loci. The parental origin of alleles could be determined at two other loci in the hybrid cells. Whereas no methylation of parental fibroblast-derived alleles of the HIC-1 locus was noted in hybrid cell lines, a marked increase in methylation of fibroblast-derived alleles of the estrogen receptor was observed in all hybrid cell lines. Therefore, despite high-level DNA MTase expression, widespread loss of unmethylated CpG islands was not observed in the hybrid cell lines. The nonrandom pattern of increased CpG island methylation in the hybrid cell lines suggests that locus-specific features and/or clonal selection, and not just DNA MTase expression, affect the evolution of ectopic methylation in neoplastic cells. Somatic cell hybrids may provide useful models for studying aberrant epigenetic events in neoplastic cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)847-853
Number of pages7
JournalCell Growth and Differentiation
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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