Altered DNA methylation is associated with docetaxel resistance in human breast cancer cells

Lena Kastl, Iain Brown, Andrew C Schofield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Docetaxel is an effective chemotherapy drug to treat breast cancer but the underlying molecular mechanisms of drug resistance are not fully understood. DNA methylation is an epigenetic event, involved in the control of gene expression, which is known to play an important role in cancer and chemotherapy drug resistance. To investigate the role of DNA methylation in docetaxel resistance in breast cancer we used two human breast cancer cell lines (MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231) that were made resistant to docetaxel. Docetaxel-resistant sub-lines were treated with different concentrations of decitabine. Global methylation and DNA methyltransferase (DNMT) activity was measured using an ELISA-based assay. Quantitative real-time PCR was used to study DNMT gene expression. Cell viability was studied by MTT assay. Global methylation was increased in MCF-7 but not significantly changed in MDA-MB-231 docetaxel-resistant cells. Decreased DNMT activity and decreased DNMT1 and DNMT3b mRNA expression was associated with docetaxel resistance in both cell lines. To investigate how the components of the DNA methylation machinery may contribute towards docetaxel resistance, decitabine (5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine), an inhibitor of DNA methylation, was used. Decitabine treatment decreased global methylation, DNMT activity and DNMT1, DNMT3a and DNMT3b mRNA expression in MDA-MB-231 docetaxel-resistant cells. In contrast, decitabine-treated MCF-7 docetaxel-resistant cells showed increased DNMT1, DNMT3a and DNMT3b mRNA expression indicating a cell line specific effect of decitabine. Decitabine treatment increased resistance in MCF-7 docetaxel-resistant cells and in the parental MCF-7 and MDA-MB231 docetaxel-sensitive cell lines, however, it did not alter response to docetaxel in MDA-MB-231 docetaxel-resistant cells. This study demonstrates that changes in the DNA methylation machinery are associated with resistance to docetaxel in breast cancer cells. The use of epigenetic therapies, as a strategy to overcome drug resistance, needs to be investigated more fully to determine their effectiveness in different cancers and for different chemotherapy drugs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1235-1241
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Oncology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2010


  • breast disease
  • mamamry gland diseases
  • cancer
  • malignant tumor
  • taxane derivatives
  • antimitotic
  • treatment
  • antineoplastic agent
  • cancerology
  • tumor cell
  • chemotherapy
  • human
  • treatment resistance
  • breast cancer
  • methylation
  • DNA
  • docetaxel


Dive into the research topics of 'Altered DNA methylation is associated with docetaxel resistance in human breast cancer cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this