The association between chronic inflammation and the development and progression of malignancy is exemplified in the biliary tract where persistent inflammation strongly predisposes to cholangiocarcinoma. The inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 (IL-6) enhances tumor growth in cholangiocarcinoma by altered gene expression via autocrine mechanisms. IL-6 can regulate the activity of DNA methyltransferases, and moreover, aberrant DNA methylation can contribute to carcinogenesis. We therefore investigated the effect of chronic exposure to IL-6 on methylation-dependent gene expression and transformed cell growth in human cholangiocarcinoma. The relationship between autocrine IL-6 pathways, DNA methylation, and transformed cell growth was assessed using malignant cholangiocytes stably transfected to overexpress IL-6. Treatment with the DNA methylation inhibitor 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine decreased cell proliferation, growth in soft agar, and methylcytosine content of malignant cholangiocytes. However, this effect was not observed in IL-6-overexpressing cells. IL-6 overexpression resulted in the altered expression and promoter methylation of several genes, including the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). EGFR promoter methylation was decreased and gene and protein expression was increased by IL-6. Thus, epigenetic regulation of gene expression by IL-6 can contribute to tumor progression by altering promoter methylation and gene expression of growth-regulatory pathways, such as those involving EGFR. Moreover, enhanced IL-6 expression may decrease the sensitivity of tumor cells to therapeutic treatments using methylation inhibitors. These observations have important implications for cancer treatment and provide a mechanism by which persistent cytokine stimulation can promote tumor growth.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research