SGI-110 (Astex Pharmaceuticals, Inc.) is a dinucleotide hypomethylating agent whose active metabolite is decitabine (DAC). This drug demonstrates superior pharmacokinetics relative to the parent drug as a result of resistance to modification by cytidine deaminase, and is being investigated in myeloid malignancy in the phase I/II setting. We and others have demonstrated that WNT inhibitory genes including SFRP2 are epigenetically silenced in AML and that exposure to DNA methyltransferase inhibitors such as 5-Azacitidine (AZA) and DAC can re-express these genes and down-regulate β-catenin signaling in AML cell lines. We hypothesized that treatment with SGI-110 would have a similar effect upon the epigenetically silenced WNT inhibitor SFRP2 and further would down-regulate β-catenin signaling in AML cells in vitro.
The AML cell lines HL60 and U937 were cultured in vitro using standard techniques and treated with phosphate buffered saline, 0.1, 1 or 5 μM SGI-110, 2μM AZA or 0.5μM DAC. Results presented are pooled data from a minimum of three biological replicates. Samples were harvested on day 5 and viable cells, DNA, RNA and protein obtained. β-catenin levels and cellular localization were quantified using imaging flow cytometry (ImageStream), DNA was extracted and bisulfite converted for analysis of gene specific and global DNA methylation by pyrosequencing (LINE-1, SFRP2), RNA was converted to cDNA for analysis by RT-PCR, and protein was obtained to confirm ImageStream results by Western blot. Nuclear translocation of β-catenin, indicative of its signaling activity, was assessed in individual cells by ImageStream using a similarity score: a log-transformed Pearson's correlation coefficient between the digitized images of immunostained β-catenin and a nuclear stain (DAPI). Shifts in the population (n=5,000) distributions of this similarity score were assessed by a resolution metric (Fishers discriminant ratio, Rd).
Treatment of AML cell lines with 5μM SGI-110 was toxic, and in line with previous experiments in AML cell lines, above the IC90. Treatment at the lowest dose of SGI-110 had minimal effects upon viability, methylation, and mRNA and protein expression in both cell lines tested. Treatment with SGI-110 at the 1μM dose resulted in reductions in LINE-1 methylation in HL60 cells by 21% (from 82% to 61%), compared to 8% with AZA (to 74%) and 20% with DAC (to 62%). In U937 cells, LINE-1 methylation decreased by 40% (from 67% to 27%) after SGI-110 treatment compared to a 25% reduction with AZA (to 42%) and a 30% reduction with DAC (to 36%). SFRP2 methylation in HL60 and U937 decreased from 86 and 88% at baseline to 66 and 60% with SGI-110 at the 1μM dose, compared to 68% with AZA and to 61% with DAC. Expression of SFRP2 mRNA was observed following treatment with 1μM SGI-110 and with DAC, but was limited following AZA treatment. ImageStream analysis of total cellular β-catenin in HL-60 and U937 cells demonstrated 2.4-fold and 1.2-fold reductions in total β-catenin following 1μM SGI-110 treatment. These results were similar to those seen with DAC (1.8-fold and 1.3-fold in HL-60 and U937 cells respectively). AZA treatment appeared to have a greater effect on total β-catenin in U937 cells (1.3-fold reduction) than in HL-60 cells (0.84-fold reduction). Western blot confirmed reductions in β-catenin protein. We also observed decreased nuclear translocation of β-catenin after treatment of HL-60 and U937 cells with 1 μM SGI-110 (Rd = −0.58 and −0.21 respectively; the negative sign indicates a change in cellular distribution from the nucleus to the cytoplasm). Changes were comparable to those observed with DAC (Rd = −0.75 and −0.26 in HL-60 and U937 cells respectively). AZA treatment of U937 cells resulted in a shift in cellular distribution (Rd = −0.20) similar to that for DAC and SGI-110 but had no effect on β-catenin distribution in HL-60 cells (Rd= 0.00).
SGI-110 is a novel DNMT inhibitor which demonstrates robust effects on LINE-1 methylation, SFRP2 mRNA expression, and β-catenin level and localization consistent with epigenetically mediated re-expression of the WNT inhibitor SFRP2. Both upregulated β-catenin signaling and SFRP2 methylation have been demonstrated to correlate with inferior survival in patients with myeloid malignancies. Re-expression of epigenetically silenced WNT inhibitory genes such as SFRP2 may abrogate β-catenin signaling in AML cells.
Karpf:Astex Pharmaceuticals: Research Funding. Griffiths:Celgene: Honoraria; Astex Pharmaceuticals: Research Funding.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.