The reversible epigenetic silencing of BRM: implications for clinical targeted therapy

Oncogene. 2007 Oct 25;26(49):7058-66. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1210514. Epub 2007 Jun 4.


The SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling complex serves as a master switch that directs and limits the execution of specific cellular programs, such as differentiation and growth control. SWI/SNF function requires one of two paralogous ATPase subunits, Brahma (BRM) or BRM-related gene 1 (BRG1), which we previously found are lost together in cancer cell lines and primary lung cancers. Although BRG1 has been found to be mutated in cancer cell lines, the mechanisms underlying BRM silencing are not known. To address this question, we sequenced BRM in 10 BRM/BRG1-deficient cancer cell lines and found that BRM was devoid of abrogating mutations. Moreover, histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors restored BRM expression in each of these BRG1/BRM-deficient cancer cell lines, indicating that epigenetic silencing is a major mechanism underlying the loss of BRM expression. Despite their ability to restore BRM expression, these HDAC inhibitors also blocked BRM function when present. However, after their removal, we observed that BRM expression remained elevated for several days, and during this period, BRM activity was detected. We also found that the suppression of BRM occurs in a broad range of human tumor types and that loss of one or both BRM alleles potentiated tumor development in mice. Thus, BRG1 and BRM are silenced by different mechanisms, and it may be possible to clinically target and reexpress BRM in a number of tumor types, potentially impacting tumor development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Barrett Esophagus
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Transitional Cell / pathology
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • DNA Helicases / genetics
  • DNA Helicases / metabolism
  • DNA Helicases / physiology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Epigenesis, Genetic*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Homozygote
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mutation
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Nuclear Proteins / physiology
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Tissue Array Analysis
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / physiology*
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / pathology


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Histone Deacetylase Inhibitors
  • Hyaluronan Receptors
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • SMARCA2 protein, human
  • Smarca2 protein, mouse
  • Transcription Factors
  • SMARCA4 protein, human
  • Smarca4 protein, mouse
  • DNA Helicases