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Open Access Short communication

Benzo[a]pyrene diol epoxide suppresses retinoic acid receptor-β2 expression by recruiting DNA (cytosine-5-)-methyltransferase 3A

Fei Ye and Xiao-Chun Xu*

Author Affiliations

Department of Clinical Cancer Prevention, Unit 1360, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Houston, TX 77030, USA

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Molecular Cancer 2010, 9:93  doi:10.1186/1476-4598-9-93

Published: 28 April 2010


Tobacco smoke is an important risk factor for various human cancers, including esophageal cancer. How benzo [a]pyrene diol epoxide (BPDE), a carcinogen present in tobacco smoke as well as in environmental pollution, induces esophageal carcinogenesis has yet to be defined. In this study, we investigated the molecular mechanism responsible for BPDE-suppressed expression of retinoic acid receptor-beta2 (RAR-β2) in esophageal cancer cells. We treated esophageal cancer cells with BPDE before performing methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction (MSP) to find that BPDE induced methylation of the RAR-β2 gene promoter. We then performed chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assays to find that BPDE recruited genes of the methylation machinery into the RAR-β2 gene promoter. We found that BPDE recruited DNA (cytosine-5-)-methyltransferase 3 alpha (DNMT3A), but not beta (DNMT3B), in a time-dependent manner to methylate the RAR-β2 gene promoter, which we confirmed by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis of the reduced RAR-β2 expression in these BPDE-treated esophageal cancer cell lines. However, BPDE did not significantly change DNMT3A expression, but it slightly reduced DNMT3B expression. DNA methylase inhibitor 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5-Aza) and DNMT3A small hairpin RNA (shRNA) vector antagonized the effects of BPDE on RAR-β2 expressions. Transient transfection of the DNMT3A shRNA vector also antagonized BPDE's effects on expression of RAR-β2, c-Jun, phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated protein kinases 1/2 (ERK1/2), and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), suggesting a possible therapeutic effect. The results of this study form the link between the esophageal cancer risk factor BPDE and the reduced RAR-β2 expression.