Genetic and epigenetic analysis of immortal and senescence arrested liver cancer cells
Bağışlar, G. Sevgi
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Genetic and epigenetic aspects of cellular senescence and immortality in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) are poorly elucidated. The aim of our thesis was to characterize senescence and immortality gene network (SIGN) involved in these cancers. We also wished to explore epigenetic changes associated with senescence and immortality of HCC cells. First, we identified differentially expressed genes in immortal, pre-senescent and senesce-arrested Huh7 clones. Our microarray analysis revealed 6390 probesets significantly changing among groups. Moreover, the significant gene signature could successfully discriminate both replicative senescent cells, and oncogene-induced senescent cells from their immortalized counterparts. E2F1 targets, stem-cell related genes, DNA repair, RNA splicing and cell cycle related gene sets were enriched specifically in immortal cells, whereas immune function, stress response, electron transporter activity, protein modification, metabolism, chromatin biogenesis related gene groups were significantly up-regulated in senescent clones. Next, we integrated gene expression data from senescence-programmed and immortal HCC cells with the data from cirrhosis and HCC tissues to generate a SIGN signature. This signature identified several HCC classes, including one “normal-like”, and two with increased expression of immortality genes. Senescence-to-immortality transition was accompanied by hepatic dedifferentiation and increased expression of cell proliferation, chromosome modification and DNA damage response genes. Finally, we identified a large set of upregulated DNA damage checkpoint and DNA repair genes that showed significant associations with some SIGN classes of HCC tumors. As retinoblastoma/E2F pathway plays a key role in cellular senescence, we also analyzed E2F and DP family members in senescent and immortal hepatocellular carcinoma cells. E2F1, E2F5, E2F7, E2F8 and DP1 were up-regulated in immortal hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell lines as compared to senescent cells, whereas E2F3a and DP-2 expressions were downregulated. Upregulation of DP2 expression in senescent cells correlated with increased DP2 protein expression, as tested with TGF-beta induced senescence models. Finally, we demonstrated important epigenetic changes associated with hepatocellular immortality and senescence. Among histone methyltransferases and demethylases, MLL3, FBXL11, SUV420H1, UTX, SMYD2, SETD2, JMJD2B, JMJD3, JARID1B and ASH1L genes were up-regulated, and EZH2 was down-regulated in senescent cells. These changes were accompanied with changes in histone methylation patterns. Of particular interest, H3K27me1, H3K27me3, H4K20me3, H3R2me2a and H4R3me2a forms of methylated histones displayed increased expression in both Huh7 and MRC5 senescent cells, as compared to their immortal forms. Finally, H3K27me3, H4K20me3, H3K36me3, H3R17me2a, H4R3me2a also showed decreased expression in some cirrhotic liver and primary HCC tumors. In conclusion, we demonstrated that a large set of senescence and immortailty genes were dysregulated in HCC. This profound change in gene expression was associated with differential expression of histone modifying enzymes, as well as histone methylation status. Thus, the immortalization of hepatocytes during hepatocellular carcinogenesis is accompanied with global gene expression changes probably mediated by a major modification of their epigenetic program via histone demethylation.