Contrasting Roles of H3K4me3 and H3K9me3 in Regulation of Apoptosis and Gemcitabine Resistance in Human Pancreatic Cancer Cells

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Nicholas Oberlies, Patricia A. Sullivan Distinguished Professor of Chemistry (Creator)
Cedric J Pearce, Adjunct Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: Background: Pancreas ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) has the most dismal prognosis among all human cancers since it is highly resistant to chemotherapy, radiotherapy and immunotherapy. The anticipated consequence of all therapies is induction of tumor apoptosis. The highly resistance nature of PDACs to all therapies suggests that the intrinsic tumor cell factors, likely the deregulated apoptosis pathway, are key mechanisms underlying PDAC non-response to these therapies, rather than the therapeutic agents themselves. The aim of this study is to test the hypothesis that epigenetic dysregulation of apoptosis mediators underlies PDAC resistance to gemcitabine, the standard chemotherapy for human PDAC.

Methods: PDAC cells were analyzed for apoptosis sensitivity in the presence of a selective epigenetic inhibitor. The epigenetic regulation of apoptosis regulators was determined by Western Blotting and quantitative PCR. The specific epigenetic modification of apoptosis regulator promoter chromatin was determined by chromatin immunoprecipitation in PDAC cells.

Results: Inhibition of histone methyltransferase (HMTase) by a selective HMTase inhibitor, verticillin A, significantly increased human PDAC cell sensitivity to gemcitabine-induced growth suppression. Verticillin A treatment decreased FLIP, Mcl-1, Bcl-x and increased Bak, Bax and Bim protein level in the tumor cells, resulting in activation of caspases, elevated cytochrome C release and increased apoptosis as determined by upregulated PARP cleavage in tumor cells. Analysis of human PDAC specimens indicated that the expression levels of anti-apoptotic mediators Bcl-x, Mcl-1, and FLIP were significantly higher, whereas the expression levels of pro-apoptotic mediators Bim, Bak and Bax were dramatically lower in human PDAC tissues as compared to normal pancreas. Verticillin A downregulated H3K4me3 levels at the BCL2L1, CFLAR and MCL-1 promoter to decrease Bcl-x, FLIP and Mcl-1 expression level, and inhibited H3K9me3 levels at the BAK1, BAXand BCL2L11 promoter to upregulate Bak, Bax and Bim expression level.

Conclusion: We determined that PDAC cells use H3K4me3 to activate Bcl-x, FLIP and Mcl-1, and H3K9me3 to silence Bak, Bax and Bim to acquire an apoptosis-resistant phenotype. Therefore, selective inhibition of H3K4me3 and H3K9me3 is potentially an effective approach to overcome PDAC cells resistance to gemcitabine.

Additional Information

BMC Cancer, 18, 149
Language: English
Date: 2018
H3K9me3, H3K4me3, Gemcitabine, Chemoresistance, Apoptosis

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