Liu Y, Chakravarty S, Dey M
Site-specific histone modifications are important epigenetic regulators of gene expression. As deregulation of genes often results in complex disorders, corrective modulation of site-specific histone marks could be a powerful therapeutic or disease-preventive strategy. However, such modulation by dietary compounds and the resulting impact on disease risk remain relatively unexplored. Here we examined phenethylisothiocyanate (PEITC), a common dietary compound derived from cruciferous vegetables with known chemopreventive properties under experimental conditions, as a possible modulator of histone modifications in human colon cancer cells. The present study reports novel, dynamic, site-specific chemical changes to histone H3 in a gene-promoter-specific manner, associated with PEITC exposure in human colon tumor-derived SW480 epithelial cells. In addition, PEITC attenuated cell proliferation in a concentration- and time-dependent manner, likely mediated by caspase-dependent apoptotic signalling. The effects of PEITC on histone modifications and gene expression changes were achieved at low, non-cytotoxic concentrations, in contrast to the higher concentrations necessary to halt cancer cell proliferation. Increased understanding of specific epigenetic alterations by dietary compounds may provide improved chemopreventive strategies for reducing the healthcare burden of cancer and other human diseases.