Chromosomal autonomy of hMLH1 methylation in colon cancer

Hui Li, Lois Myeroff, Lakshmi Kasturi, Lisa Krumroy, Stuart Schwartz, James K V Willson, Eric Stanbridge, Graham Casey, Sanford Markowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Silencing of hMLH1 expression by aberrant hMLH1 promoter methylation accounts for the majority of sporadic colon cancers with microsatellite instability. We have previously shown hMLH1 silencing is biallelic and actively maintained. To study the mechanism of aberrant hMLH1 methylation, we assayed whether an hMLH1 methylated cell could transfer methylation and silencing to an exogenous hMLH1 promoter in somatic cell hybrids between hMLH1 methylated-silenced and hMLH1 unmethylated-expressing colon cancer cells. Conversely, we assayed whether these hybrids could reactivate expression of initially methylated and silenced hMLH1 alleles. Compellingly, within the hybrids each hMLH1 allele remained unchanged, retaining the expression status of its parental cell of origin. This chromosomal autonomy may not be simply determined by DNA methylation, as it is reasserted after experimentally forced demethylation of all hMLH1 alleles in the hybrids. Confirming findings included hMLH1 methylated cells being unable to methylate single transferred exogenous hMLH1 expressing chromosomes or transfected hMLH1 reporter constructs. hMLH1 silencing does not conform to either a dominant or recessive model, and is not determined by trans-acting factors differing between hMLH1 expressing or silenced genomes. We posit that hMLH1 methylation is dependent on and maintained by cis chromosomal marks, whose nature remains to be elucidated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1443-1449
Number of pages7
Issue number9
StatePublished - Feb 21 2002


  • Colon cancer
  • hMLH1
  • Methylation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research
  • Genetics


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