DNA methylation in ovarian cancer. II. Expression of DNA methyltransferases in ovarian cancer cell lines and normal ovarian epithelial cells

Gynecol Oncol. 2001 Aug;82(2):299-304. doi: 10.1006/gyno.2001.6284.


Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate whether expression of the enzymes that catalyze cytosine CpG island methylation, DNA methyltransferases, DNMT1, DNMT3a, and DNMT3b is altered in human ovarian cancer. Aberrations in DNA methylation are common in cancer and have important roles in tumor initiation and progression. Tumors that display frequent and concurrent inactivation of multiple genes by methylation are designated as having a CpG Island methylator phenotype, or CIMP. To date, colon, gastric, and most recently ovarian cancers meet the CIMP criteria for cancer. We hypothesized that altered expression of DNA methyltransferases can result in hypermethylation events seen in CIMP cancers.

Methods: DNMT1, DNMT3a, and DNMT3b mRNA levels in eight ovarian cancer cells lines (Hey, HeyA8, HeyC2, OVCAR-3, SK-OV-3, PA-1, A2780, and A2780-P5) were compared to DNMT expression in normal ovarian surface epithelial cells using semi-quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction.

Results: In HeyA8 and HeyC2 ovarian cancer cells, DNMT1 expression levels were up to threefold higher (P < 0.05) than in normal ovarian surface epithelial cells. SK-OV-3 and PA-1 displayed increased DNMT3b expression (P < 0.05) compared to normal ovarian surface epithelial cells. Transcript levels for DNMT3a, however, were similar in cancer and normal ovarian cells.

Conclusions: We observed differential expression of the DNMT genes in some ovarian cancer cell lines and conclude that alterations in DNMT expression might contribute to the CIMP phenotype in ovarian cancer. However, based on the lack of aberrant DNMT expression in some of the cancer cell lines examined, we further suggest that another mechanism(s), in addition to DNMT overexpression, accounts for methylation anomalies commonly observed in ovarian cancer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / enzymology
  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics
  • Animals
  • CpG Islands / genetics
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Papillary / enzymology
  • Cystadenocarcinoma, Papillary / genetics
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferase 1
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / biosynthesis*
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / genetics
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Epithelial Cells / enzymology
  • Epithelial Cells / physiology
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Ovary / enzymology
  • Ovary / physiology
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • RNA, Messenger
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferase 1
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases
  • DNA methyltransferase 3A
  • DNA methyltransferase 3B
  • DNMT1 protein, human
  • Dnmt1 protein, mouse