Indexed on: 18 Oct '06Published on: 18 Oct '06Published in: Laboratory Investigation
Cystatin M (CST6) is a candidate breast cancer tumor suppressor that is expressed in normal and premalignant breast epithelium, but not in metastatic breast cancer cell lines. CST6 is subject to epigenetic silencing in MCF-7 breast cancer cells related to methylation of the CpG island that encompasses the CST6 proximal promoter region and exon 1. In the current study, CST6 CpG island methylation and expression status was examined in a panel of breast cancer cell lines. Seven of 12 (58%) cell lines lack detectable expression of CST6 and treatment of these cells with 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine resulted in a significant increase in CST6 expression, suggesting that the loss of expression may be related to methylation-dependent epigenetic silencing. Bisulfite sequencing of CST6 in a subset of breast cancer cell lines revealed CpG island hypermethylation in CST6-negative cells, and an absence of CpG island methylation in cells that express CST6. The extent of regional methylation was strongly associated with the lack of expression of CST6 among these cell lines. In particular, hypermethylation of the proximal promoter was significantly associated with CST6 gene silencing, and methylation of a number of individual CpGs was found to be statistically correlated with extinction of gene expression. These results establish a strong link between CST6 promoter hypermethylation and loss of CST6 expression in breast cancer cell lines, and suggest that methylation-dependent epigenetic silencing of CST6 may represent an important mechanism for loss of CST6 during breast carcinogenesis in vivo.