Acquired resistance against doxorubicin is a major limitation in clinical treatment of breast cancer. The molecular mechanism behind the aberrant expression of genes leading to doxorubicin resistance is not clear. Epigenetic changes play an important role in the regulation of gene expression. Therefore, the objective of this study was to identify the epigenetic mechanism underlying acquired doxorubicin resistance in breast cancer cells. Doxorubicin-resistant cells were selected by repeated exposure of MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell lines to clinically relevant doses of doxorubicin for 18 months. MTT assay, cell cycle analysis, colony formation, qRT-PCR, and Western blot analyses were used to characterize the epigenetic and molecular mechanism. Pyrosequencing was used to detect MSH2 promoter hypermethylation. Aberrant expression of epigenetic regulatory genes, a significant increase in H3 acetylation and methylation, as well as promoter hypermethylation-mediated inactivation of MSH2 gene were associated with the acquired resistant phenotype. Demethylating agent 5-Aza-deoxycytidine and HDAC inhibitor Trichostatin A significantly re-sensitized resistant cells to doxorubicin. Findings of this study revealed that epigenetic aberrations including promoter hypermethylation-mediated inactivation MSH2 contribute to the acquisition of doxorubicin resistance in breast cancer cells. Additionally, our data suggest that some of these epigenetic aberrations are progressive during resistance development and therefore can potentially be used as biomarkers for early detection of resistance. These epigenetic aberrations, being reversible, can also serve as targets for epigenetic therapy to re-sensitize doxorubicin-resistant breast cancer cells. Epigenetic inactivation of mismatch repair gene MSH2 further suggests that loss of MMR-dependent apoptotic potential could be a novel mechanistic basis for the acquisition of doxorubicin resistance in breast cancer cells.
- Breast cancer
- DNA hypermethylation
- Histone modification
- Mismatch repair-dependent apoptosis