Cellular proteins are subject to frequent methylation on lysine residues, introduced by specific methyltransferases, and each lysine residue can receive up to three methyl groups. Histone methylations, which are key determinants of chromatin state and transcriptional status, have been subject to particularly intense studies, but methylations on non-histone protein substrates are also abundant and biologically significant. Numerous studies have addressed lysine methylation in the realm of cancer biology. A recent study used an antibody-based approach to investigate the methylation of Lys-561 of the stress-inducible Hsp70 protein HSPA1, focusing exclusively on dimethylated HSPA1, concluding that it was elevated in cancer [Cho et al. (2012), Nat. Commun.,3, 1072]. In the present study, we have performed a more extensive analysis of HSPA1 methylation status in cancer samples, using protein mass spectrometry. We found that the four methylation states of Lys561 on HSPA1 (un-, mono-, di- and trimethylated) could be measured accurately and reproducibly in samples from carcinomas. We investigated HSPA1 methylation in 70 effusions, representing 53 high-grade serous ovarian carcinomas and 17 breast carcinomas. Notably, we found the trimethylated form of HSPA1 to be predominant in the cancer samples. HSPA1 methylation was studied for association with clinicopathologic parameters, including chemotherapy response and survival. The trimethylated form was more prevalent in breast carcinoma effusions (p = 0.014), whereas the dimethylated (p = 0.025), monomethylated (p = 0.004) and unmethylated (p = 0.021) forms were overrepresented in the ovarian carcinomas. For the ovarian carcinomas, the monomethylated (p = 0.028) and unmethylated (p = 0.007) forms were significantly related to the presence of higher residual disease volume, while the unmethylated form was significantly associated with poor overall (p = 0.015) and progression-free (p = 0.012) survival. In conclusion, lysine methylation of HSPA1 differs between metastatic breast and ovarian carcinoma, and unmethylated HSPA1 shows potential as a prognostic marker in high-grade serous carcinoma.
This item's license is: Attribution 4.0 International