Malignant transformation of cells is associated with changes in gene expression. Gross alterations in chromatin organization may be involved in such gene dysregulation, as well as the involvement of specific transcription factors. Specialized genomic DNA segments that exhibit high affinity to the nuclear matrix in vitro have been designated as matrix / scaffold attachment regions (MARs / SARs). MARs are postulated to anchor chromatin onto the nuclear matrix, thereby organizing genomic DNA into topologically distinct loop domains that are important in replication and transcription. In support of this notion, MARs often colocalize or exist in close proximity to regulatory sequences including enhancers. Base unpairing regions (BURs) are typically 100-150 bp regions within MARs, possess an intrinsic propensity to unwind under negative superhelical strain, and are considered to be hallmark of MARs. To investigate a potential mechanism that could lead to significant alterations in gene expression in cancer cells, this review focuses on a group of chromatin-associated proteins that specifically recognize double stranded BURs. Several important proteins have been identified from cancer cells as BUR-binding proteins, including poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP-1), Ku autoantigen, SAF-A, HMG-I(Y), nucleolin and p53. Many of these proteins are dramatically upregulated in malignancy of the breast. Increase in the amount of these BUR-binding proteins, some of which are known to interact with each other, may not only provide an architectural core but also recruit functional multi-molecular complexes at the base of chromatin loops to affect multiple distant genes. Experimental strategies by which these proteins can be exploited as carcinoma-specific diagnostic markers and as targets for antineoplastic therapy are discussed.
Keywords: chromatin(dis)organization, mars, burs, bur-binding protein, parp-1, saf-a, hmg-1(y),p53
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