Down-regulation of the Nucleotide Excision Repair gene XPG as a new mechanism of drug resistance in human and murine cancer cells
1 Laboratory of Molecular Pharmacology, Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche "Mario Negri", 20156 Milan, Italy
2 Nerviano Medical Science, Nerviano, Milan, Italy
Molecular Cancer 2010, 9:259 doi:10.1186/1476-4598-9-259Published: 24 September 2010
Drug resistance is one of the major obstacles limiting the activity of anticancer agents. Activation of DNA repair mechanism often accounts for increase resistance to cancer chemotherapy.
We present evidence that nemorubicin, a doxorubicin derivative currently in clinical evaluation, acts through a mechanism of action different from classical anthracyclines, requiring an intact nucleotide excision repair (NER) system to exert its activity. Cells made resistant to nemorubicin show increased sensitivity to UV damage. We have analysed the mechanism of resistance and discovered a previously unknown mechanism resulting from methylation-dependent silencing of the XPG gene. Restoration of NER activity through XPG gene transfer or treatment with demethylating agents restored sensitivity to nemorubicin. Furthermore, we found that a significant proportion of ovarian tumors present methylation of the XPG promoter.
Methylation of a NER gene, as described here, is a completely new mechanism of drug resistance and this is the first evidence that XPG gene expression can be influenced by an epigenetic mechanism. The reported methylation of XPG gene could be an important determinant of the response to platinum based therapy. In addition, the mechanism of resistance reported opens up the possibility of reverting the resistant phenotype using combinations with demethylating agents, molecules already employed in the clinical setting.