Epigenetic regulation of HGF/Met receptor axis is critical for the outgrowth of bone metastasis from breast carcinoma

Paola Bendinelli, Paola Maroni, Emanuela Matteucci, Maria Alfonsina Desiderio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Our translational research deals with the influence of microenvironment on the phenotype and colonization of bone metastases from breast carcinoma, and on pre-metastatic niche formation. The aim of the present study was to clarify the origin of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), ligand of Met receptor, the control of the axis HGF/Met by DNA methylation, and its importance for the nexus supportive cells-metastatic cells and for metastasis outgrowth. In bone metastasis of the 1833-xenograft model, DNA methyltransferase blockade using the chemotherapic drug 5-aza-2′-deoxycytidine (decitabine) strongly reduced the expression of HGF/Met receptor axis and of E-cadherin, with decrease of metastasis wideness and osteolysis, prolonging mice survival. Thus, DNA methylation events acted as commanders of breast carcinoma cells metastatizing to bone influencing the epithelial phenotype. HGF emerged as a bone-marrow stimulus, and the exosomes seemed to furnish HGF to metastatic cells. In fact, decitabine treatment similarly affected some markers of these microvesicles and HGF, indicating that its supply to recipient cells was prevented. Notably, in bone metastasis the hypomethylation of HGF, Met and E-cadherin promoters did not appear responsible for their elevated expression, but we suggest the involvement of hypermethylated regulators and of Wwox oncosuppressor, the latter being affected by decitabine. Wwox expression increased under decitabine strongly localizing in nuclei of bone metastases. We hypothesize a role of Wwox in Met activity since in vitro Wwox overexpression downregulated the level of nuclear-Met protein fragment and Met stability, also under long exposure of 1833 cells to decitabine. HGF enhanced phosphoMet and the activity in nuclei, an effect partially prevented by decitabine. Altogether, the data indicated the importance to target the tumor microenvironment by blocking epigenetic mechanisms, which control critical events for colonization such as HGF/Met axis and Wwox, as therapy of bone metastasis.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2578
JournalCell Death and Disease
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Cell Biology
  • Cancer Research


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