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Genetic polymorphisms in the 5' flanking region of glutathione S-transferase P1 affect promoter methylation

Glutathione-S-transferase P1 (GSTP1) is involved in thiol-mediated detoxification and breakdown of reactive oxygen species created by anticancer drug exposure. GSTP1 is also an inhibitor of c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1, a kinase involved in stress response, apoptosis and cellular proliferation. Hypermethylation of the GSTP1 promoter has been associated with gene silencing in prostate cancer, kidney cancer, and breast cancer, among others. Although frequently described, the mechanism underlying promoter hypermethylation of the GSTP1 gene is poorly understood. It has been reported that an ATAAA repeat of the GSTP1 promoter separates methylated from unmethylated CpGs in normal prostate tissue [1]. These separate methylation domains are lost in prostate cancer, and methylation extends throughout the whole promoter region. It has been proposed that hypermethylation of GSTP1 requires a combination of gene silencing and random seeds of methylation in prostate cancer cells, and that these combinatorial effects lead to histone deacetylation and subsequent chromatin remodeling [2]. To further elucidate the mechanisms underlying the hypermethylation of the GSTP1 promoter, we genotyped the (ATAAA) repeat and the linked SNPs in positions -354, -288, -287 and -282 in the GSTP1 promoter and we performed methylation analysis using mass spectrometry in tumor DNA from 82 breast cancer patients. The role of the different allelic variants on methylation status of the GSTP1 promoter and expression levels was assessed. We quantitatively determined the methylation status of six CpGs spanning the transcription start site of the GSTP1 promoter: -22, +8, +14, +38, +47 and +55. The average percentage methylation for each individual CpG for the 82 tumor samples analyzed was 16.9%, 30.3%, 18.2%, 21.2%, 18.6% and 8.1%, respectively. The average percentage methylation for all CpGs in all tumor samples was 19%. There was a correlation between the degree of methylation of the individual CpGs and their neighboring CpGs (P < 0.001). When correlating the extent of methylation to the mRNA levels previously assessed by whole genome gene-expression profiling of the same tumors, a significant inverse correlation was observed (P < 0.01). The methylation status of the three CpGs closest to the transcriptional start site was more highly associated with the level of GSTP1 mRNA expression than the CpGs further downstream of the +1 site. Furthermore, we observed differences in the degree of GSTP1 promoter methylation between the different tumor subclasses defined by whole-genome microarray analysis [3]. The methylation of the GSTP1 promoter was significantly lower in the basal subtype compared with the luminal subtype, which corresponded to elevated GSTP1 mRNA levels in the basal subtypes [4]. We further analyzed the impact of the most frequent haplotype structure of the GSTP1 promoter in relation to the extent of methylation, and a correlation was observed (P = 0.003) suggesting that haplotype structures can affect de novo methylation of adjacent sequences.


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Rønneberg, J., Tost, J., Grenaker-Alnæs, G. et al. Genetic polymorphisms in the 5' flanking region of glutathione S-transferase P1 affect promoter methylation. Breast Cancer Res 7, P1.17 (2005).

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  • Prostate Cancer
  • Methylation Status
  • Promoter Methylation
  • Haplotype Structure
  • Normal Prostate Tissue