Insulin-like growth factor binding protein 7 (IGFBP7) was considered a tumor suppressor gene in lung cancer. However, the mechanism responsible for the downregulation of this gene has not yet been fully understood. In this study, we analyzed the epigenetic inactivation of IGFBP7 expression in human lung cancer. We found that 14 out of 16 lung cancer cell lines showed decreased expression of IGFBP7 compared to control cells by real-time RT-PCR, and 42 out of 90 patients (46.7%) with primary lung tumor exhibited negative staining of IGFBP7 by immunohistochemistry analysis. The IGFBP7 expression could be restored by demethylation agent 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (DAC) in 7 cancer cell lines. Methylation status of IGFBP7 was further evaluated by bisulfite sequencing (BS) and methylation-specific-PCR (MSP). It turned out that low expression of IGFBP7 was associated with DNA methylation in lung cancer cell lines and in primary lung tumors (P=0.019). To explore the regulatory role of p53 on IGFBP7, we transfected a wild type p53 expression vector into lung cancer cell lines H1299, H2228, and H82. Forced expression of p53 increased IGFBP7 expression only in H82 harboring no IGFBP7 methylation, while transfection in combination with DAC induced the expression of IGFBP7 in H1299 and H2228, in which IGFBP7 was methylated. Additionally, treatment with p53 inducer adriamycin (ADR) alone or in combination with DAC increased the expression of IGFBP7 in the 3 cell lines. Our data suggest that IGFBP7 is inactivated in lung cancer by DNA hypermethylation in both lung cancer cell lines and primary lung tumors, and IGFBP7 might be regulated by p53 in lung cancer cells.
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