DNA methylation is an epigenetic mechanism involved in transcriptional silencing of imprinted genes, genes located on the inactive X chromosome, and a number of tumour suppressor genes in cancer. MBD (methyl-CpG-binding domain) proteins selectively bind to methylated DNA and recruit chromatin remodelling and transcriptional repressor complexes, thereby establishing a repressive chromatin state. MBD2, a member of the MBD protein family, binds to methylated promoter CpG islands (clusters of high-density CpG dinucleotides) and acts as a methylation-dependent transcriptional repressor. Previous work has demonstrated that decreased CpG island methylation in mice lacking the DNA methyltransferase DNMT1 is associated with impaired tumorigenesis when crossed on the tumour-susceptible ApcMin/+ background. Mbd2 deficiency also dramatically reduces adenoma burden and extends life span in a gene dosage-dependent manner in this mouse model. Mbd2 is therefore essential for tumorigenesis in the murine intestine, although it is dispensable for the viability of the host animals. These findings validate MBD2 as a potential target for therapeutic intervention in colorectal cancer.

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