Epigenetic regulation of cyclooxygenase-2 by methylation of c8orf4 in pulmonary fibrosis

I.C. Evans, J.L. Barnes, I.M. Garner, D.R. Pearce, T.M. Maher, X. Shiwen, E.A. Renzoni, A.U. Wells, C.P. Denton, Geoff Laurent, D.J. Abraham, R.J. Mcanulty

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© 2016 The Author(s).Fibroblasts derived from the lungs of patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and systemic sclerosis (SSc) produce low levels of prostaglandin (PG) E2, due to a limited capacity to up-regulate cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). This deficiency contributes functionally to the fibroproliferative state, however the mechanisms responsible are incompletely understood. In the present study, we examined whether the reduced level of COX-2 mRNA expression observed in fibrotic lung fibroblasts is regulated epigenetically. The DNA methylation inhibitor, 5-aza-2'-deoxycytidine (5AZA) restored COX-2 mRNA expression by fibrotic lung fibroblasts dose dependently. Functionally, this resulted in normalization of fibroblast phenotype in terms of PGE2 production, collagen mRNA expression and sensitivity to apoptosis. COX-2 methylation assessed by bisulfite sequencing and methylation microarrays was not different in fibrotic fibroblasts compared with controls. However, further analysis of the methylation array data identified a transcriptional regulator, chromosome 8 open reading frame 4 (thyroid cancer protein 1, TC-1) (c8orf4), which is hypermethylated and down-regulated in fibrotic fibroblasts compared with controls. siRNA knockdown of c8orf4 in control fibroblasts down-regulated COX-2 and PGE2 production generating a phenotype similar to that observed in fibrotic lung fibroblasts. Chromatin immunoprecipitation demonstrated that c8orf4 regulates COX-2 expression in lung fibroblasts through binding of the proximal promoter. We conclude that the decreased capacity of fibrotic lung fibroblasts to up-regulate COX-2 expression and COX-2-derived PGE2 synthesis is due to an indirect epigenetic mechanism involving hypermethylation of the transcriptional regulator, c8orf4.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-586
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016


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