Chromatin remodeling and cancer

Cancer Biol Ther. Jan-Feb 2003;2(1):22-9. doi: 10.4161/cbt.189.


The fate of the cell relies on a delicate balance between gene expression and repression. The transcriptional control of the genome is maintained not only by transcription factors but also chromatin remodeling proteins. The purpose of the chromatin remodeling proteins is to alter the nucleosome architecture such that genes are exposed to or hidden from the transcriptional machinery. The nucleosome can be restructured by two mechanisms: 1. the movement of nucleosomes along DMA which is carried out by ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling complexes; and 2. the modification of core histones by histone acetyltransferases, deactylases, methyltrans-ferases, and kinases. Since these chromatin remodeling proteins play an essential role in transcriptional regulation, it is not surprising that they have been linked to cancer. In this review, we provide a general overview on chromatin remodeling and describe known genetic alterations of chromatin remodeling proteins in human cancers. We also discuss potential other, as yet unexplored strategies that cancers might take to manipulate the chromatin remodeling machinery.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Acetyltransferases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Chromatin / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Histone Acetyltransferases
  • Histone Deacetylases / metabolism
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins / metabolism
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • Chromatin
  • Histones
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae Proteins
  • Acetyltransferases
  • Histone Acetyltransferases
  • Histone Deacetylases