Epithelial cell adhesion molecule (Ep-CAM) is believed to have a critical role in carcinogenesis and cell proliferation. However, the association of Ep-CAM with cancer invasion and progression is less clear. We found that Ep-CAM was highly expressed on low-invasive cells compared with highly invasive cells. Forced expression of Ep-CAM decreased cancer invasiveness, and silencing Ep-CAM expression elevated cancer invasiveness. Ep-CAM expression was associated with promoter methylation. Treatment with a demethylating agent, and/or the histone deacetylase inhibitor reactivated Ep-CAM expression in Ep-CAM-negative cells and inhibited cancer invasiveness. Using a promoter-reporter construct, we demonstrated methylation of the promoter fragment drive Ep-CAM-silenced transcription. Additionally, silenced Ep-CAM gene in cancer cells was enriched for hypermethylated histone 3 lysine 9. When unmethylated and active, this promoter was associated with acetylated histone 3 lysine 9. Furthermore, we observed an increased association of Ep-CAM promoter with repression components as tumor invasiveness increased. In cancer tissues, Ep-CAM expression significantly correlated with tumor progression and associated with promoter methylation. Our data support the idea that modulation of Ep-CAM plays a pivotal role in tumor invasion and progression. Moreover, aberrant DNA methylation of Ep-CAM is implicated in enhancing invasive/metastatic proclivity of tumors.
- Promoter methylation