BACKGROUND: Cytoglobin (Cygb) was first described in 2002 as an intracellular globin of unknown function. We have previously shown the downregulation of cytoglobin as a key event in a familial cancer syndrome of the upper aerodigestive tract.
METHODS: Cytoglobin expression and promoter methylation were investigated in sporadic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) using a cross-section of clinical samples. Additionally, the putative mechanisms of Cygb expression in cancer were explored by subjecting HNSCC cell lines to hypoxic culture conditions and 5-aza-2-deoxycitidine treatment.
RESULTS: In clinically derived HNSCC samples, CYGB mRNA expression showed a striking correlation with tumour hypoxia (measured by HIF1A mRNA expression P=0.013) and consistent associations with histopathological measures of tumour aggression. CYGB expression also showed a marked negative correlation with promoter methylation (P=0.018). In the HNSCC cell lines cultured under hypoxic conditions, a trend of increasing expression of both CYGB and HIF1A with progressive hypoxia was observed. Treatment with 5-aza-2-deoxycitidine dramatically increased CYGB expression in those cell lines with greater baseline promoter methylation.
CONCLUSION: We conclude that the CYGB gene is regulated by both promoter methylation and tumour hypoxia in HNSCC and that increased expression of this gene correlates with clincopathological measures of a tumour's biological aggression.
- Carcinoma, Squamous Cell/genetics
- Cell Hypoxia/genetics
- Cell Line, Tumor
- DNA Methylation
- Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
- Gene Silencing
- HeLa Cells
- Hypoxia-Inducible Factor 1, alpha Subunit/biosynthesis
- Mouth Neoplasms/genetics
- Oropharyngeal Neoplasms/genetics
- Promoter Regions, Genetic
- RNA, Messenger/biosynthesis