Abnormal CpG island hypermethylation of multiple tumor-suppressor genes (TSGs) can lead to the initiation and progression of human cancer. The cytosine of the CpG island on the promoter region is methylated by 5′-cytosine- methyltransferases (DNMTs). Pharmacologic inhibitors of CpG island methylation provide a rational approach to reactivate the TSGs in tumor cells and to restore the critical cellular pathways in cancer cells. Mithramycin A (MMA) is known to be a GC- and CG-rich DNA-binding agent. We sought to determine whether MMA could inhibit CpG island methylation and DNMT expression in lung cancer cells. We found that MMA reduced the CpG island methylation of antimetastasis TSGs, including SLIT2 and TIMP-3 genes, and was associated with the prevention of metastasis. When highly metastatic CL1-5 lung cancer cells were treated with low doses (10 nmol/l) of MMA for 14 days, they reexpressed mRNA levels for these genes. MMA also inhibited the invasion phenotypes of CL1-5 cells as indicated by its inhibition of cancer cell migration using wound-healing and transwell assays. Molecular docking of MMA onto the DNMT1 catalytic domain revealed that MMA might interact with the catalytic pocket of DNMT1. Western blots showed that DNMT1 protein levels were depleted after MMA. These data support the idea that MMA has demethylation and antimetastasis effects on lung cancer cells. This mechanism might be mediated by the interaction of MMA and DNMT1, leading to the depletion of the DNMT1 protein and the reversal of the metastasis phenotype in lung cancer cells.
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