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Moderate DNA hypomethylation suppresses intestinal tumorigenesis by promoting caspase-3 expression and apoptosis
Oncogenesis  (IF7.485),  Pub Date : 2021-05-04, DOI: 10.1038/s41389-021-00328-9
Xiaoya Duan, Yuanyong Huang, Xiaoxing Chen, Wencai Wang, Jiwei Chen, Jialun Li, Wei Yang, Jiwen Li, Qihan Wu, Jiemin Wong

Global DNA hypomethylation is a most common epigenetic alteration in human neoplasia. However, accumulative evidence shows that global DNA hypomethylation impacts tumorigenesis in a tissue-specific manner, promoting tumorigenesis in some but suppressing tumorigenesis in others including colorectal cancer. The underlying mechanisms, especially how DNA hypomethylation suppresses tumorigenesis, remain largely unknown. Here, we investigate how DNA hypomethylation affects intestinal tumorigenesis by using an Uhrf1 tandem tudor domain knockin mutant mouse model (Uhrf1ki/ki) that exhibits a moderate ~10% reduction of global DNA methylation. We found that both chemical-induced colorectal carcinogenesis and Apc loss of heterozygosity (LOH)-induced intestinal tumorigenesis are substantially suppressed in the Uhrf1 mutant mice. Furthermore, unlike Dnmt1 hypomorphic mice in which DNA hypomethylation suppresses the incidence of macroscopic intestinal tumors but promotes the formation of microadenoma in ApcMin/+ background, Uhrf1ki/ki/ApcMin/+ mice have markedly reduced incidence of both microadenoma and macroadenoma. DNA hypomethylation does not appear to affect Apc LOH, activation of the Wnt or Hippo pathway, or tumor cell proliferation, but acts cooperatively with activated Wnt pathway to enhance the caspase-3 gene expression, activation, and apoptosis. Furthermore, increased caspase-3 expression correlates with DNA hypomethylation within the caspase-3 enhancer regions. Taken together, we present a new mouse model for investigating the role of and the molecular mechanisms by which DNA hypomethylation suppresses intestinal tumorigenesis. Our finding that a moderate DNA hypomethylation is sufficient to suppress intestinal tumorigenesis by promoting caspase-3 expression and apoptosis sheds new light on DNA-methylation inhibitor-based colorectal cancer therapeutics.