Carcinogenesis involves the inactivation or inhibition of genes that function as tumor suppressors. Deletions, mutations, or epigenetic silencing of tumor suppressor genes can lead to altered growth, differentiation, and apoptosis. DNA methylation and histone modifications are important epigenetic mechanisms of gene regulation and play essential roles both independently and cooperatively in tumor initiation and progression. Realization that many tumor suppressor genes are silenced by epigenetic mechanisms has stimulated discovery of novel tumor suppressor genes. One of the most useful of these approaches is an epigenetic reactivation screening strategy that combines treatment of cancer cells in vitro with DNA methyltransferase and/or histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors, followed by global gene expression analysis using microarrays, to identify upregulated genes. This approach is most effective when complemented by microarray analyses to identify genes repressed in primary tumors. Recently, using cancer cell lines treated with a DNA methylation inhibitor and/or a HDAC inhibitor in conjunction with cDNA microarray analysis, candidate tumor suppressor genes, which are subject to epigenetic silencing, have been identified in endometrial, colorectal, esophageal, and pancreatic cancers. An increasing number of studies have utilized epigenetic reactivation screening to discover novel tumor suppressor genes in cancer. The results of some of the most recent studies are highlighted in this review.
Keywords: DNA methylation; Tumor suppressor gene; epigenetics; histone modification..