Introduction: DNA methylation-induced silencing of genes encoding tumor suppressors is common in many types of cancer, but little is known about how such epigenetic silencing can contribute to tumor metastasis. The PRKD1 gene encodes protein kinase D1 (PKD1), a serine/threonine kinase that is expressed in cells of the normal mammary gland, where it maintains the epithelial phenotype by preventing epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition.
Methods: The status of PRKD1 promoter methylation was analyzed by reduced representation bisulfite deep sequencing, methylation-specific PCR (MSP-PCR) and in situ MSP-PCR in invasive and noninvasive breast cancer lines, as well as in humans in 34 cases of "normal" tissue, 22 cases of ductal carcinoma in situ, 22 cases of estrogen receptor positive, HER2-negative (ER+/HER2-) invasive lobular carcinoma, 43 cases of ER+/HER2- invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC), 93 cases of HER2+ IDC and 96 cases of triple-negative IDC. A reexpression strategy using the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor decitabine was used in vitro in MDA-MB-231 cells as well as in vivo in a tumor xenograft model and measured by RT-PCR, immunoblotting and immunohistochemistry. The effect of PKD1 reexpression on cell invasion was analyzed in vitro by transwell invasion assay. Tumor growth and metastasis were monitored in vivo using the IVIS Spectrum Pre-clinical In Vivo Imaging System.
Results: Herein we show that the gene promoter of PRKD1 is aberrantly methylated and silenced in its expression in invasive breast cancer cells and during breast tumor progression, increasing with the aggressiveness of tumors. Using an animal model, we show that reversion of PRKD1 promoter methylation with the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor decitabine restores PKD1 expression and blocks tumor spread and metastasis to the lung in a PKD1-dependent fashion.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that the status of epigenetic regulation of the PRKD1 promoter can provide valid information on the invasiveness of breast tumors and therefore could serve as an early diagnostic marker. Moreover, targeted upregulation of PKD1 expression may be used as a therapeutic approach to reverse the invasive phenotype of breast cancer cells.