Elevated 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase expression supports synthesis of prenyl pyrophosphate intermediates required for tumor growth. In this study, the copy number of HMG-CoA reductase mRNA was determined in solid tumor and leukemic cell lines using competitive reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. Reductase mRNA was increased about eight-fold in Caco2 human colon adenocarcinoma cells compared with that in CCD18 normal colon cells. We also found a 50-fold enhancement of reductase mRNA in stimulated human lymphocytes compared with unstimulated cells. In CEM human leukemia cells, reductase mRNA was increased 8.6 times compared with that in stimulated lymphocytes. Greater low density lipoprotein receptor mRNA was also observed in tumor cells compared with normal counterparts. We hypothesized that elevated reductase mRNA was due to attenuation of sterol-mediated control of tumor reductase promoter activity. We first compared the methylation status of CpG dinucleotides in the promoters of reductase and p16 tumor suppressor genes from solid tumor, leukemic, and normal cells. As reported for other tumor cells the p16 promoter region was hypermethylated in Caco2 and CEM cells but was hypomethylated in corresponding normal cells. However, reductase promoter sequences in both normal and tumor cells were hypomethylated, demonstrating that methylation is not involved in sterol-independent reductase regulation. We addressed altered transcription factor binding to the tumor cell reductase promoter by transiently transfecting Caco2 and CCD18 with a plasmid vector containing a hamster HMG-CoA reductase promoter fused to the luciferase gene. We found that increased reductase mRNA was partially due to an approximately three-fold higher reductase promoter activity in Caco2 than in CCD18, measured by luciferase reporter assays. Thus, differential binding of transcription factor or factors on the tumor cell reductase promoter attenuates normal sterol-mediated regulation of reductase activity.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.