Aberrant allele-specific replication, independent of parental origin, in blood cells of cancer patients.

Zohar A. Dotan*, Aviva Dotan, Jacob Ramon, Lydia Avivi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Allelic counterparts of biallelically expressed genes display an epigenetic symmetry normally manifested by synchronous replication, different from genes subjected to monoallelic expression, which normally are characterized by an asynchronous mode of replication (well exemplified by the SNRPN imprinted locus). Malignancy was documented to be associated with gross modifications in the inherent replication-timing coordination between allelic counterparts of imprinted genes as well as of biallelically expressed loci. The cancer-related allelic replication timing aberrations are non-disease specific and appear in peripheral blood cells of cancer patients, including those with solid tumors. As such they offer potential blood markers for non-invasive cancer test. The present study was aimed to gain some insight into the mechanism leading to the replication timing alterations of genes in blood lymphocytes of cancer patients. METHODS: Peripheral blood samples derived from patients with prostate cancer were chosen to represent the cancerous status, and samples taken from patients with no cancer but with benign prostate hyperplasia were used to portray the normal status. Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization (FISH) replication assay, applied to phytohemagglutinin (PHA)-stimulated blood lymphocytes, was used to evaluate the temporal order (either synchronous or asynchronous) of genes in the patients' cells. RESULTS: We demonstrated that: (i) the aberrant epigenetic profile, as delineated by the cancer status, is a reversible modification, evidenced by our ability to restore the normal patterns of replication in three unrelated loci (CEN15, SNRPN and RB1) by introducing an archetypical demethylating agent, 5-azacytidine; (ii) following the rehabilitating effect of demethylation, an imprinted gene (SNRPN) retains its original parental imprint; and (iii) the choice of an allele between early or late replication in the aberrant asynchronous replication, delineated by the cancer status, is not random but is independent of the parental origin. CONCLUSION: The non-disease specific aberrant epigenetic profile displayed in peripheral blood cells of patients with a solid tumour (unlike genetic aberrations) can be reversed, by an epigenetic drug applied in vitro, to the normal. It appears that the cancerous status differentiates between two allelic counterparts in a non-random manner, but independent of the parental origin.

Original languageEnglish
Article number390
Pages (from-to)390
Number of pages1
JournalBMC Cancer
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


FundersFunder number
Yehudit Kleinberger Memorial Foundation
Israel Cancer Association


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