H3K27me3 induces multidrug resistance in small cell lung cancer by affecting HOXA1 DNA methylation via regulation of the lncRNA HOTAIR

Shun Fang, Yefeng Shen, Bin Chen, Yuanzhou Wu, Longfei Jia, Yaling Li, Yaru Zhu, Yusheng Yan, Man Li, Rui Chen, Linlang Guo, Xin Chen, Qunqing Chen


Background: The long non-coding RNA (lncRNA) HOX transcript antisense RNA (HOTAIR) serves as a powerful predictor of tumor progression and overall survival in patients. Our previous studies showed that HOTAIR modulated HOXA1 DNA methylation by reducing DNMT1 and DNMT3b expression in drug-resistant small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Moreover, H3 lysine 27 trimethylation (H3K27me3) is catalyzed by enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) and plays a critical role in SCLC chemoresistance. However, it is not completely clear whether H3K27me3 affects HOXA1 DNA methylation or whether this effect is mediated by HOTAIR.
Methods: The levels of EZH2 and H3K27me3 were identified in SCLC tissues by immunohistochemical (IHC) staining and in SCLC multidrug-resistant cells by Western blotting. Cell counting kit-8 (CCK-8) and flow cytometry were used to detect and analyze the biological function of H3K27me3. Then, we assessed the role of HOTAIR in the regulation of EZH2 and H3K27me3 by using lentivirus and small interfering RNA. Further, bisulfite sequencing PCR was conducted to detect the methylation levels of HOXA1 DNA. Finally, Western blotting was performed to examine the regulatory role of H3K27me3 in controlling HOTAIR expression in SCLC.
Results: In this study, we found that EZH2 and H3K27me3 levels were markedly higher in SCLC tissues and multidrug-resistant SCLC cells. The results indicated that H3K27me3 was related to multidrug resistance. HOTAIR overexpression and knockdown showed that EZH2 and H3K27me3 were regulated by HOTAIR. Moreover, H3K27me3 affected HOXA1 DNA methylation levels. Strikingly, we found that H3K27me3 acted as a negative feedback regulator of HOTAIR.
Conclusions: Our study showed that H3K27me3 affects HOXA1 DNA methylation via HOTAIR regulation, indicating that H3K27me3 may be a potential therapy target for SCLC chemoresistance.