PAX3-FOXO1 controls expression of the p57Kip2 cell-cycle regulator through degradation of EGR1.
ABSTRACT: The chimeric protein PAX3-FOXO1, resulting from a translocation between chromosomes 2 and 13, is the most common genetic aberration in the alveolar subtype of the human skeletal muscle tumor, rhabdomyosarcoma. To understand how PAX3-FOXO1 contributes to tumor development, we isolated and characterized muscle cells from transgenic mice expressing PAX3-FOXO1 under control of the PAX3 promoter. We demonstrate that these myoblasts are unable to complete myogenic differentiation because of an inability to up-regulate p57Kip2 transcription. This defect is caused by reduced levels of the EGR1 transcriptional activator resulting from a direct, destabilizing interaction with PAX3-FOXO1. Neither PAX3 nor FOXO1 share the ability to regulate p57Kip2 transcription. Thus, the breakage and fusion of the genes encoding these transcription factors creates a unique chimeric protein that controls a key cell-cycle and -differentiation regulator.
Project description:Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a family of soft tissue cancers that are related to the skeletal muscle lineage and predominantly occur in children and young adults. A specific chromosomal translocation t(2;13)(q35;q14) that gives rise to the chimeric oncogenic transcription factor PAX3-FOXO1 has been identified as a hallmark of the aggressive alveolar subtype of RMS. PAX3-FOXO1 cooperates with additional molecular changes to promote oncogenic transformation and tumorigenesis in various human and murine models. Its expression is generally restricted to RMS tumor cells, thus providing a very specific target for therapeutic approaches for these RMS tumors. In this article, we review the recent understanding of PAX3-FOXO1 as a transcription factor in the pathogenesis of this cancer and discuss recent developments to target this oncoprotein for treatment of RMS.
Project description:Pax3 plays an essential role in myogenesis. Previously, we found a tumor-signature chimeric fusion RNA, PAX3-FOXO1 also present during muscle differentiation, raising the possibility of its physiological role. Here we demonstrated that the fusion is needed transiently for muscle lineage commitment. Interestingly, the fusion ortholog was not found in seven mouse muscle differentiation/regeneration systems, nor in other stem cell differentiation systems of another three mammal species. We noticed that Pax3 is expressed at a much lower level in human stem cells, and during muscle differentiation than in other mammals. Given the fact that the fusion and the parental Pax3 share common downstream targets, we reasoned that forming the fusion may be a mechanism for human cells to escape certain microRNA regulation on Pax3. By sequence comparison, we identified 16 candidate microRNAs that may specifically target the human PAX3 3'UTR. We used a luciferase reporter assay, examined the microRNAs expression, and conducted mutagenesis on the reporters, as well as a CRISPR/Cas9 mediated editing on the endogenous allele. Finally, we identified miR-495 as a microRNA that specifically targets human PAX3. Examining several other fusion RNAs revealed that the human-specificity is not limited to PAX3-FOXO1. Based on these observations, we conclude that PAX3-FOXO1 fusion RNA is absent in mouse, or other mammals we tested, the fusion RNA is a mechanism to escape microRNA, miR-495 regulation in humans, and that it is not the only human-specific fusion RNA.
Project description:Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS) is an aggressive childhood muscle sarcoma with a 5-year survival rate of less than 30%. More than 80% of ARMSs harbor a PAX3-FOXO1 fusion transcription factor. However, expression of PAX3-FOXO1 in muscle cells alone is not sufficient and requires the loss of function of Ink4a/ARF to promote malignant proliferation of muscle cells in vitro or initiate ARMS tumor formation in vivo. This prompted us to examine the signaling pathways required to activate the function of PAX3-FOXO1 and to explore the functional interaction between the Ink4a/ARF and PAX3-FOXO1 signaling pathways. Here we report that inhibition of cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (Cdk4) by fascaplysin (a small molecule selective inhibitor of Cdk4/cyclin D1 that we identified in a screen for compounds that inhibit PAX3-FOXO1) led to inhibition of the transcriptional activity of PAX3-FOXO1 in ARMS cell line Rh30. Consistent with this finding, activation of Cdk4 enhanced the activity of PAX3-FOXO1. In vitro kinase assays revealed that Cdk4 directly phosphorylated PAX3-FOXO1 at Ser(430). Whereas fascaplysin did not affect the protein level of PAX3-FOXO1, it did increase the cytoplasmic level of PAX3-FOXO1 in a portion of cells. Our findings indicate that Cdk4 phosphorylates and positively regulates PAX3-FOXO1 and suggest that inhibition of Cdk4 activity should be explored as a promising avenue for developing therapy for ARMS.
Project description:A vast number of cancer genes are transcription factors that drive tumorigenesis as oncogenic fusion proteins. Although the direct targeting of transcription factors remains challenging, therapies aimed at oncogenic fusion proteins are attractive as potential treatments for cancer. There is particular interest in targeting the oncogenic PAX3-FOXO1 fusion transcription factor, which induces alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (aRMS), an aggressive cancer of skeletal muscle cells for which patient outcomes remain dismal. In this work, we have defined the interactome of PAX3-FOXO1 and screened 60 candidate interactors using siRNA-mediated depletion to identify candidates that affect fusion protein activity in aRMS cells. We report that chromodomain helicase DNA binding protein 4 (CHD4), an ATP-dependent chromatin remodeler, acts as crucial coregulator of PAX3-FOXO1 activity. CHD4 interacts with PAX3-FOXO1 via short DNA fragments. Together, they bind to regulatory regions of PAX3-FOXO1 target genes. Gene expression analysis suggested that CHD4 coregulatory activity is essential for a subset of PAX3-FOXO1 target genes. Depletion of CHD4 reduced cell viability of fusion-positive but not of fusion-negative RMS in vitro, which resembled loss of PAX3-FOXO1. It also caused specific regression of fusion-positive xenograft tumors in vivo. Therefore, this work identifies CHD4 as an epigenetic coregulator of PAX3-FOXO1 activity, providing rational evidence for CHD4 as a potential therapeutic target in aRMS.
Project description:Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma is a pediatric soft-tissue sarcoma caused by PAX3/7-FOXO1 fusion oncogenes and is characterized by impaired skeletal muscle development. We developed human PAX3-FOXO1 -driven zebrafish models of tumorigenesis and found that PAX3-FOXO1 exhibits discrete cell lineage susceptibility and transformation. Tumors developed by 1.6-19 months and were primitive neuroectodermal tumors or rhabdomyosarcoma. We applied this PAX3-FOXO1 transgenic zebrafish model to study how PAX3-FOXO1 leverages early developmental pathways for oncogenesis and found that her3 is a unique target. Ectopic expression of the her3 human ortholog, HES3, inhibits myogenesis in zebrafish and mammalian cells, recapitulating the arrested muscle development characteristic of rhabdomyosarcoma. In patients, HES3 is overexpressed in fusion-positive versus fusion-negative tumors. Finally, HES3 overexpression is associated with reduced survival in patients in the context of the fusion. Our novel zebrafish rhabdomyosarcoma model identifies a new PAX3-FOXO1 target, her3/HES3, that contributes to impaired myogenic differentiation and has prognostic significance in human disease.
Project description:Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (aRMS) is an aggressive sarcoma of skeletal muscle characterized by expression of the PAX3-FOXO1 fusion gene. Despite its discovery over almost 20 years ago, PAX3-FOXO1 remains an enigmatic tumor driver. Previously, we reported that PAX3-FOXO1 supports aRMS initiation by enabling bypass of cellular senescence. Here, we show that bypass occurs in part by PAX3-FOXO1-mediated upregulation of RASSF4, a Ras-association domain family (RASSF) member, which then suppresses the evolutionarily conserved mammalian Hippo/Mst1 pathway. RASSF4 loss-of-function activates Hippo/Mst1 and inhibits downstream YAP, causing aRMS cell cycle arrest and senescence. This is the first evidence for an oncogenic role for RASSF4, and a novel mechanism for Hippo signaling suppression in human cancer. Human skeletal muscle myoblasts (HSMMs) were retrovirally transduced with either an empty vector (Vp, pK1) or PAX3-FOXO1 (PFp, pK1-PAX3-FOXO1) and selected on puromycin. Presenescent (presen) cells were harvested before the senescence checkpoint. Since cells expressing PAX3-FOXO1 can bypass the senescence checkpoint, postsenescent (postsen) cells expressing PAX3-FOXO1 were also harvested. the gene expression affected by the introduction of PAX3-FOXO1
Project description:The PAX3-FOXO1 fusion protein is the key oncogenic driver in fusion positive rhabdomyosarcoma (FP-RMS), an aggressive soft tissue malignancy with a particularly poor prognosis. Identifying key downstream targets of PAX3-FOXO1 will provide new therapeutic opportunities for treatment of FP-RMS. Herein, we demonstrate that Forkhead Box F1 (FOXF1) transcription factor is uniquely expressed in FP-RMS and is required for FP-RMS tumorigenesis. The PAX3-FOXO1 directly binds to FOXF1 enhancers and induces FOXF1 gene expression. CRISPR/Cas9 mediated inactivation of either FOXF1 coding sequence or FOXF1 enhancers suppresses FP-RMS tumorigenesis even in the presence of PAX3-FOXO1 oncogene. Knockdown or genetic knockout of FOXF1 induces myogenic differentiation in PAX3-FOXO1-positive FP-RMS. Over-expression of FOXF1 decreases myogenic differentiation in primary human myoblasts. In FP-RMS tumor cells, FOXF1 protein binds chromatin near enhancers associated with FP-RMS gene signature. FOXF1 cooperates with PAX3-FOXO1 and E-box transcription factors MYOD1 and MYOG to regulate FP-RMS-specific gene expression. Altogether, FOXF1 functions downstream of PAX3-FOXO1 to promote FP-RMS tumorigenesis.
Project description:Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma comprises a rare highly malignant tumor presumed to be associated with skeletal muscle lineage in children. The hallmark of the majority of alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma is a chromosomal translocation that generates the PAX3-FOXO1 fusion protein, which is an oncogenic transcription factor responsible for the development of the malignant phenotype of this tumor. Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cells are dependent on the oncogenic activity of PAX3-FOXO1, and its expression status in alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma tumors correlates with worst patient outcome, suggesting that blocking this activity of PAX3-FOXO1 may be an attractive therapeutic strategy against this fusion-positive disease. In this study, we screened small molecule chemical libraries for inhibitors of PAX3-FOXO1 transcriptional activity using a cell-based readout system. We identified the Sarco/endoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+)-ATPases (SERCA) inhibitor thapsigargin as an effective inhibitor of PAX3-FOXO1. Subsequent experiments in alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cells showed that activation of AKT by thapsigargin inhibited PAX3-FOXO1 activity via phosphorylation. Moreover, this AKT activation appears to be associated with the effects of thapsigargin on intracellular calcium levels. Furthermore, thapsigargin inhibited the binding of PAX3-FOXO1 to target genes and subsequently promoted its proteasomal degradation. In addition, thapsigargin treatment decreases the growth and invasive capacity of alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma cells while inducing apoptosis in vitro. Finally, thapsigargin can suppress the growth of an alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma xenograft tumor in vivo. These data reveal that thapsigargin-induced activation of AKT is an effective mechanism to inhibit PAX3-FOXO1 and a potential agent for targeted therapy against alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma.
Project description:Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common soft-tissue sarcoma in childhood and histologically resembles developing skeletal muscle. Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS) is an aggressive subtype with a higher rate of metastasis and poorer prognosis. The majority of ARMS tumors (80%) harbor a PAX3-FOXO1 or less commonly a PAX7-FOXO1 fusion gene. The presence of either the PAX3-FOXO1 or PAX7-FOXO1 fusion gene foretells a poorer prognosis resulting in clinical re-classification as either fusion-positive (FP-RMS) or fusion-negative RMS (FN-RMS). The PAX3/7-FOXO1 fusion genes result in the production of a rogue transcription factors that drive FP-RMS pathogenesis and block myogenic differentiation. Despite knowing the molecular driver of FP-RMS, targeted therapies have yet to make an impact for patients, highlighting the need for a greater understanding of the molecular consequences of PAX3-FOXO1 and its target genes including microRNAs. Here we show FP-RMS patient-derived xenografts and cell lines display a distinct microRNA expression pattern. We utilized both loss- and gain-of function approaches in human cell lines with knockdown of PAX3-FOXO1 in FP-RMS cell lines and expression of PAX3-FOXO1 in human myoblasts and identified microRNAs both positively and negatively regulated by the PAX3-FOXO1 fusion protein. We demonstrate PAX3-FOXO1 represses miR-221/222 that functions as a tumor suppressing microRNA through the negative regulation of CCND2, CDK6, and ERBB3. In contrast, miR-486-5p is transcriptionally activated by PAX3-FOXO1 and promotes FP-RMS proliferation, invasion, and clonogenic growth. Inhibition of miR-486-5p in FP-RMS xenografts decreased tumor growth, illustrating a proof of principle for future therapeutic intervention. Therefore, PAX3-FOXO1 regulates key microRNAs that may represent novel therapeutic vulnerabilities in FP-RMS.