Imprinted DLK1 is a putative tumor suppressor gene and inactivated by epimutation at the region upstream of GTL2 in human renal cell carcinoma

Hum Mol Genet. 2006 Mar 15;15(6):821-30. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddl001. Epub 2006 Jan 26.


A common deletion at chromosomal arm 14q32 in human renal cell carcinoma (RCC) prompted us to explore a tumor suppressor gene (TSG) in this region. We report that imprinted DLK1 at 14q32, a regulator of adipocyte differentiation, is a candidate TSG in RCCs. DLK1 expression was lost in 39 out of 50 (78%) primary RCC tissues, whereas expression of DLK1 was maintained in every normal kidney tissue examined. DLK1 was expressed in only one of 15 (7%) RCC-derived cell lines. In order to see the biological significance of DLK1 inactivation in RCCs, we tested the effect of restoration of DLK1 in RCC cell lines, using a recombinant retrovirus containing the gene. Reintroduction of DLK1 into DLK1-null RCC cell lines markedly increased anchorage-independent cell death, anoikis and suppressed tumor growth in nude mice. We then investigated the underlying mechanisms for DLK1 inactivation in RCCs. We found loss of heterozygosity at this region in 12 out of 50 RCC tissues (24%). To explore the role of epigenetic regulation of DLK1 inactivation in RCCs, we conducted methylation analysis of the upstream region and the gene body of DLK1. We could not find a differentially methylated region in either the upstream region or the gene body of DLK1. However, we found that gain of methylation upstream of GTL2, a reciprocal imprinted gene for DLK1, is a critical epigenetic alteration for the inactivation of DLK1 in RCCs. The present data have shown that gain of methylation upstream of the untranslated GTL2 leads to pathological downregulation of DLK1 in RCCs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / genetics*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • DNA Methylation
  • Gene Silencing*
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor*
  • Genomic Imprinting*
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics*
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • Kidney Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mutation*
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • RNA, Long Noncoding


  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • DLK1 protein, human
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • MEG3 non-coding RNA, human
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Proteins
  • RNA, Long Noncoding