Introduction: The Rac-GEF P-REX1 is a key mediator of ErbB signaling in breast cancer recently implicated in mammary tumorigenesis and metastatic dissemination. Although P-REX1 is essentially undetectable in normal human mammary epithelial tissue, this Rac-GEF is markedly upregulated in human breast carcinomas, particularly of the luminal subtype. The mechanisms underlying P-REX1 upregulation in breast cancer are unknown. Toward the goal of dissecting the mechanistic basis of P-REX1 overexpression in breast cancer, in this study we focused on the analysis of methylation of the PREX1 gene promoter.Methods: To determine the methylation status of the PREX1 promoter region, we used bisulfite genomic sequencing and pyrosequencing approaches. Re-expression studies in cell lines were carried out by treatment of breast cancer cells with the demethylating agent 5-aza-2'-deoxycitidine. PREX1 gene methylation in different human breast cancer subtypes was analyzed from the TCGA database.Results: We found that the human PREX1 gene promoter has a CpG island located between -1.2 kb and +1.4 kb, and that DNA methylation in this region inversely correlates with P-REX1 expression in human breast cancer cell lines. A comprehensive analysis of human breast cancer cell lines and tumors revealed significant hypomethylation of the PREX1 promoter in ER-positive, luminal subtype, whereas hypermethylation occurs in basal-like breast cancer. Treatment of normal MCF-10A or basal-like cancer cells, MDA-MB-231 with the demethylating agent 5-aza-2'-deoxycitidine in combination with the histone deacetylase inhibitor trichostatin A restores P-REX1 levels to those observed in luminal breast cancer cell lines, suggesting that aberrant expression of P-REX1 in luminal breast cancer is a consequence of PREX1 promoter demethylation. Unlike PREX1, the pro-metastatic Rho/Rac-GEF, VAV3, is not regulated by methylation. Notably, PREX1 gene promoter hypomethylation is a prognostic marker of poor patient survival.Conclusions: Our study identified for the first time gene promoter hypomethylation as a distinctive subtype-specific mechanism for controlling the expression of a key regulator of Rac-mediated motility and metastasis in breast cancer.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research