Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 25948775
Oncotarget 2015 Jun;6(17):15265-82
5-azacytidine and 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine are clinically used to treat patients with blood neoplasia. Their antileukemic property is mediated by the trapping and the subsequent degradation of a family of proteins, the DNA methyltransferases (DNMT1, DNMT3A, and DNMT3B) leading to DNA demethylation, tumor suppressor gene re-expression and DNA damage. Here we studied the respective role of each DNMT in the human leukemia KG1 cell line using a RNA interference approach. In addition we addressed the role of DNA damage formation in DNA demethylation by 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine. Our data show that DNMT1 is the main DNMT involved in DNA methylation maintenance in KG1 cells and in mediating DNA damage formation upon exposure to 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine. Moreover, KG1 cells express the DNMT1 protein at a level above the one required to ensure DNA methylation maintenance, and we identified a threshold for DNMT1 depletion that needs to be exceeded to achieve DNA demethylation. Most interestingly, by combining DNMT1 siRNA and treatment with low dose of 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine, it is possible to uncouple DNA damage formation from DNA demethylation. This work strongly suggests that a direct pharmacological inhibition of DNMT1, unlike the use of 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine, should lead to tumor suppressor gene hypomethylation and re-expression without inducing major DNA damage in leukemia.