Epigenetic characterisation of the 06 methyl-guanine DNA-methyltransferase promoter in New Zealand melanoma cell lines : a thesis presented to Massey University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Biochemistry at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

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New Zealand has the second highest incidence of melanoma skin cancer in the world. Chemotherapy is the standard treatment for melanoma derived tumours which have undergone metastasis and current therapies have limited benefit. There is a great need for new therapies and to increase the efficacy of current therapies. Temozolomide (TMZ) is a chemotherapy agent effective in the treatment of both metastatic melanoma and glioblastoma (brain cancer), although TMZ resistance has been observed in many tumours. The activity of the DNA repair enzyme O6 methyl-guanine methyltransferase (MGMT) is thought to be largely responsible for TMZ resistance. MGMT protects the cell from the effects of TMZ by removing cytotoxic lesions placed on the DNA. Mechanisms of regulation of MGMT expression remain unclear in melanoma. DNA methylation at the MGMT promoter has been linked to MGMT silencing in some cancers and has been associated with specific chromatin modifications. The present study was aimed at investigating the promoter methylation status of MGMT in primary melanoma cell lines using a new technique named methyl DNA immuno-precipitation (MeDIP). Next, the chromatin immuno-precipitation (ChIP) method was used to examine post translational modifications on the surrounding chromatin. The data obtained was correlated with both MGMT transcription levels and TMZ sensitivity. The promoter methylation status of MGMT has been used to predict the clinical responsiveness of glioblastoma patients to TMZ. Establishing the regulatory mechanisms of MGMT expression in melanoma patients would validate a means to predict clinical responsiveness to TMZ. Furthermore, establishing mechanisms of MGMT silencing may provide the basis for future clinical trials of novel therapies for melanoma and glioblastoma.
06 methyl-guanine DNA-methyltransferase (MGMT), Temozolomide (TMZ), Methyl DNA immuno-precipitation (MeDIP), Chromatin immuno-precipitation (ChIP), Melanoma chemotherapy, Glioblastoma chemotherapy