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Expression and significance of histone H3K27 demethylases in renal cell carcinoma

Yongqing Shen15, Xiaoqiang Guo12, Yuejia Wang1, Wei Qiu4, Yanzhong Chang1, Aili Zhang3* and Xianglin Duan1*

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory of Iron Metabolism and Molecular Biology, College of Life Science, Hebei Normal University, Shijiazhuang, 050016, China

2 Department of Biochemistry, Bethune Military Medical College, Shijiazhuang, 050081, China

3 Department of Urology, The Fourth Hospital, Hebei Medical University, Shijiazhuang, 050011, China

4 Department of Urology, Peking University First Hospital, Beijing, 100034, China

5 Xishan College, Hebei Medical University, Shijiazhuang, 050011, China

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BMC Cancer 2012, 12:470  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-470

Published: 12 October 2012



The histone H3K27 demethylases UTX and JMJD3 are important regulatory factors that modulate gene expression by altering the physical state of chromatin. Previous studies have indicated an abnormal H3K27 methylation status in carcinogenesis. We therefore investigated the expression patterns of UTX and JMJD3 in renal cell carcinoma (RCC) and their roles in cancer development.


The mRNA expression levels of the UTX and JMJD3 genes were determined in cancer tissues and adjacent normal tissues in 36 patients with primary RCC, using quantitative real-time-polymerase chain reaction. The UTX and JMJD3 protein contents were measured by western blotting and immunohistochemical analysis.


UTX and JMJD3 transcripts were significantly increased in cancer tissues compared to normal tissues (P < 0.05). mRNA levels of the inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinases 4 and 6 p16INK4a were also increased in cancer tissues (P < 0.001). Western blotting indicated that levels of both demethylases were increased in cancer tissues. The level of tri-methylated H3K27 (H3K27me3) was lower in cancer tissues compared to normal tissues, but expression of the H3K27 methyltransferase EZH2 was increased (P < 0.05). These results suggest that the two H3K27 demethylases may play critical roles in the regulation of H3K27 methylation status in RCC. Immunohistochemical analysis confirmed that UTX and JMJD3 expression were upregulated in cancer tissues compared to adjacent tissues.


This study demonstrated that UTX and JMJD3 were upregulated in cancer tissues, suggesting that they may be involved in the development of primary RCC. The potential roles of H3K27 demethylases as biomarkers in the early diagnosis of RCC need to be further explored.

Renal cell carcinoma; Histone H3K27 demethylase; UTX; JMJD3; Epigenetics