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Insulin-like growth factor binding protein-4 gene silencing in lung adenocarcinomas


Takuya Yazawa, MD, PhD, Department of Pathology, Yokohama City University Graduate School of Medicine, 3-9 Fukuura, Kanazawa-ku, Yokohama, Kanagawa 236-0004, Japan. Email:


Gene silencing by promoter hypermethylation plays an important role in molecular pathogenesis. We previously reported that insulin-like growth factor (IGF) binding protein-4 (IGFBP-4), which inhibits IGF-dependent growth, is expressed via early growth response-1 (EGR-1) and is often silenced in cultivated lung cancer cells. The purpose of the present study was to clarify clinicopathological factors associated with IGFBP-4 gene silencing in lung adenocarcinomas. Seventy-six surgically resected adenocarcinomas (20 well-, 35 moderately-, and 21 poorly-differentiated) were subjected to methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis for EGR-1-binding sites located in the IGFBP-4 promoter and immunohistochemistry for IGFBP-4, EGR-1, and Ki-67. Thirty-two adenocarcinomas (42%) revealed IGFBP-4 promoter hypermethylation, and the severity inversely correlated with the level of IGFBP-4 expression (P < 0.0001) and tumor differentiation (well versus poor, P= 0.0278; well/moderate versus poor, P= 0.0395). Furthermore, there was a negative correlation between Ki-67 labeling index and IGFBP-4 expression (P= 0.0361). These findings suggest that the expression of IGFBP-4 in adenocarcinoma cells in vivo is downregulated by epigenetic silencing in association with tumor differentiation, resulting in disruption of the mechanism of IGFBP-4-mediated growth inhibition.