Aberrant promoter methylation of SPARC in ovarian cancer

Neoplasia. 2009 Feb;11(2):126-35. doi: 10.1593/neo.81146.


Epigenetic silencing of tumor suppressor genes is a new focus of investigation in the generation and proliferation of carcinomas. Secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine (SPARC) is reportedly detrimental to the growth of ovarian cancer cells and has been shown to be epigenetically silenced in several cancers. We hypothesized that SPARC is downregulated in ovarian cancer through aberrant promoter hypermethylation. To that end, we analyzed SPARC expression in ovarian cancer cell lines and investigated the methylation status of the Sparc promoter using methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction. Our results show that SPARC mRNA expression is decreased in three (33%) and absent in four (44%) of the nine ovarian cancer cell lines studied, which correlated with hypermethylation of the Sparc promoter. Treatment with the demethylating agent 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine rescued SPARC mRNA and protein expression. Addition of exogenous SPARC, as well as ectopic expression by an adenoviral vector, resulted in decreased proliferation of ovarian cancer cell lines. Investigation of primary tumors revealed that the Sparc promoter is methylated in 68% of primary ovarian tumors and that the levels of SPARC protein decrease as the disease progresses from low to high grade. Lastly, de novo methylation of Sparc promoter was shown to be mediated by DNA methyltransferase 3a. These results implicate Sparc promoter methylation as an important factor in the genesis and survival of ovarian carcinomas and provide new insights into the potential use of SPARC as a novel biomarker and/or treatment modality for this disease.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / pharmacology
  • Azacitidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Azacitidine / pharmacology
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation* / drug effects
  • Decitabine
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Humans
  • Osteonectin / drug effects
  • Osteonectin / genetics*
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*
  • RNA, Messenger / drug effects
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Survival Analysis
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Osteonectin
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Decitabine
  • DNA (Cytosine-5-)-Methyltransferases
  • DNA methyltransferase 3A
  • Azacitidine