Molecular mechanisms for aberrant expression of the human breast cancer specific gene 1 in breast cancer cells: control of transcription by DNA methylation and intronic sequences

Oncogene. 2001 Aug 23;20(37):5173-85. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1204668.


Breast cancer specific gene 1 (BCSG1), also referred as synuclein gamma, is the third member of a neuronal protein family synuclein. BCSG1 is not expressed in normal breast tissues but highly expressed in advanced infiltrating breast carcinomas. When over expressed, BCSG1 significantly stimulates breast cancer metastasis. To elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying the abnormal transcription of BCSG1 in breast cancer cells, in this study, we isolated a 2195 base pair fragment of human BCSG1 gene. This fragment includes 1 kb 5'-flanking region, exon 1, and intron 1. By analysing the promoter activity and the methylation status of the exon 1 region, we show that (1) Intron 1 plays critical roles in the control of BCSG1 gene transcription through cis-regulatory sequences that affect BCSG1 transcription in cell type-specific and cell type-nonspecific manners. (2) The activator protein-1 (AP-1) is functionally involved in BCSG1 transcription in breast cancer cells through its binding to an AP-1 motif located in the intron 1. (3) The exon 1 region of BCSG1 gene contains a CpG island that is unmethylated in BCSG1-positive SKBR-3 and T47D cells but densely methylated in BCSG1-negative MCF-7 cells. (4) Treating MCF-7 cells with a demethylating agent 5-Aza-2'-deoxycytidine specifically activated BCSG1 transcription. Thus, our results suggest that while the cellular content of transcription activators and repressors that interact with the cis-regulatory sequences present in the intron 1 contribute prominently to the tissue-specific expression of BCSG1, demethylation of exon 1 is an important factor responsible for the aberrant expression of BCSG1 in breast carcinomas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Azacitidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Azacitidine / pharmacology
  • Base Sequence
  • Binding Sites
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • CpG Islands
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Decitabine
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Exons
  • Humans
  • Introns*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasm Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / chemistry
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Time Factors
  • Transcription Factor AP-1 / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic*
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Transfection
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • gamma-Synuclein


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • SNCG protein, human
  • Transcription Factor AP-1
  • gamma-Synuclein
  • Decitabine
  • Azacitidine