Alterations in high order chromatin, with concomitant modulation in gene expression, are one of the earliest events in the development of colorectal cancer. Cohesins are a family of proteins that modulate high-order chromatin, although the role in colorectal cancer remains incompletely understood. We, therefore, assessed the role of cohesin SA1 in colorectal cancer biology and as a biomarker focusing in particular on the increased incidence/mortality of colorectal cancer among African-Americans. Immunohistochemistry on tissue arrays revealed dramatically decreased SA1 expression in both adenomas (62%; P = 0.001) and adenocarcinomas (75%; P = 0.0001). RT-PCR performed in endoscopically normal rectal biopsies (n = 78) revealed a profound decrease in SA1 expression in adenoma-harboring patients (field carcinogenesis) compared with those who were neoplasia-free (47%; P = 0.03). From a racial perspective, colorectal cancer tissues from Caucasians had 56% higher SA1 expression than in African-Americans. This was mirrored in field carcinogenesis where healthy Caucasians expressed more SA1 at baseline compared with matched African-American subjects (73%; P = 0.003). However, as a biomarker for colorectal cancer risk, the diagnostic performance as assessed by area under ROC curve was greater in African-Americans (AUROC = 0.724) than in Caucasians (AUROC = 0.585). From a biologic perspective, SA1 modulation of high-order chromatin was demonstrated with both biophotonic (nanocytology) and chromatin accessibility [micrococcal nuclease (MNase)] assays in SA1-knockdown HT29 colorectal cancer cells. The functional consequences were underscored by increased proliferation (WST-1; P = 0.0002, colony formation; P = 0.001) in the SA1-knockdown HT29 cells. These results provide the first evidence indicating a tumor suppressor role of SA1 in early colon carcinogenesis and as a risk stratification biomarker giving potential insights into biologic basis of racial disparities in colorectal cancer. Cancer Prev Res; 9(11); 844–54. ©2016 AACR.
- Received February 20, 2016.
- Revision received August 5, 2016.
- Accepted August 8, 2016.
- ©2016 American Association for Cancer Research.