To understand better T-cell lymphomagenesis, we examined promoter CpG methylation and mRNA expression of closely related genes encoding p16, p15, and p14 tumor suppressor genes in cultured malignant T-cells that were derived from cutaneous, adult type, and anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK)-expressing T-cell lymphomas. p16 gene was epigenetically silenced in all but one of the 10 malignant T-cell lines examined, p15 gene silenced in roughly half of the lines, and p14 was the least frequently affected. Extensive methylation of the p16 promoter was seen in six out of 10 cutaneous T-cell lymphoma patient samples and corresponded with lack of p16 protein expression in the cases examined. Treatment of cultured T-cells with the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor, 5-aza-2-deoxy-cytidine, resulted in reversal of the p16 gene silencing. However, expression of p16 protein was delayed in relationship to p16 promoter demethylation and required up to 3 weeks to occur, seemingly reflecting late activation of the p16 gene. These findings indicate that epigenetic silencing affects in T-cell malignancies, often simultaneously, several tumor suppressor genes that impact on key cell functions. The observed differential silencing of p16 and p14, and to a lesser degree p15 gene, indicates that the silencing is governed by precise, promoter region-specific mechanisms. The study provides also further rationale for treatment of at least some types of T-cell lymphomas with DNA methyltransferase inhibitors to target the epigenetically silenced tumor suppressor genes.
Keywords: Adult; Azacitidine; Cell Line, Tumor; Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p15; DNA Methylation; DNA Modification Methylases; Enzyme Inhibitors; Epigenesis, Genetic; Gene Expression Regulation, Leukemic; Gene Silencing; Humans; Lymphoma, T-Cell, Cutaneous; Promoter Regions, Genetic; Protein Biosynthesis; Protein-Tyrosine Kinases; Skin Neoplasms; Time Factors; Tumor Suppressor Protein p14ARF