Epigenetic regulation of X-linked cancer/germline antigen genes by DNMT1 and DNMT3b

S. R. James, P. A. Link, A. R. Karpf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


We examined the function of two key DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) enzymes in epigenetic regulation of X-linked cancer/germline (CG-X) antigen genes in human cancer cells, using MAGE-A1, NY-ESO-1, and XAGE-1 as models. In HCT116 cells, genetic knockout of DNMT1 caused moderate activation of CG-X genes, DNMT3b knockout had a negligible effect, and double knockout of both enzymes caused robust gene induction. Similarly, dual DNMT knockout caused dramatic hypomethylation of the MAGE-A1 and NY-ESO-1 promoters, DNMT1 knockout showed moderate hypomethylation, and DNMT3b knockout elicited only slight methylation changes. In contrast, both single and double knockout cells showed significant hypomethylation of the XAGE-1 promoter. RNA interference (RNAi) targeting of DNMT1 in HCT116 cells validated the results seen using genetic knockout cells; however, RNAi targeting of DNMT1 in a different colorectal cancer cell line revealed a greater independent role for DNMT1 in mediating CG-X gene repression and promoter methylation in other cell types. Notably, the histone H3 modification pattern at CG-X promoters was altered following DNMT knockout. DNMT1 or DNMT3b knockout reduced dimethylated lysine-9 (diMe-H3K9) levels, but did not significantly affect dimethylated lysine-4 (diMe-H3K4) or acetylated lysine-9 (Ac-H3-K9) levels. In contrast, dual DNMT1/3b knockout reduced the level of diMe-H3K9 and dramatically increased the levels of diMe-H3K4 and Ac-H3K9 at CG-X gene loci. In summary, DNMT1 and DNMT3b were found to perform both redundant and independent functions in epigenetic regulation of CG-X antigen genes in human cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6975-6985
Number of pages11
Issue number52
StatePublished - Nov 2 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer-testis antigens
  • Cancer/germline antigens
  • DNA methylation
  • DNMT1
  • DNMT3b
  • Gene expression
  • Histone modifications

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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