EWS-FLI1 increases transcription to cause R-loops and block BRCA1 repair in Ewing sarcoma.
ABSTRACT: Ewing sarcoma is an aggressive paediatric cancer of the bone and soft tissue. It results from a chromosomal translocation, predominantly t(11;22)(q24:q12), that fuses the N-terminal transactivation domain of the constitutively expressed EWSR1 protein with the C-terminal DNA binding domain of the rarely expressed FLI1 protein. Ewing sarcoma is highly sensitive to genotoxic agents such as etoposide, but the underlying molecular basis of this sensitivity is unclear. Here we show that Ewing sarcoma cells display alterations in regulation of damage-induced transcription, accumulation of R-loops and increased replication stress. In addition, homologous recombination is impaired in Ewing sarcoma owing to an enriched interaction between BRCA1 and the elongating transcription machinery. Finally, we uncover a role for EWSR1 in the transcriptional response to damage, suppressing R-loops and promoting homologous recombination. Our findings improve the current understanding of EWSR1 function, elucidate the mechanistic basis of the sensitivity of Ewing sarcoma to chemotherapy (including PARP1 inhibitors) and highlight a class of BRCA-deficient-like tumours.
Project description:Chromosomal translocations between the EWS gene and members of the ETS gene family are characteristic molecular features of the Ewing sarcoma. The most common translocation t(11;22)(q24;q12) fuses the EWS gene to FLI1, and is present in 85-90% of Ewing sarcomas. In the present study, a specifically designed multiplex long-range PCR assay was applied to amplify genomic EWS-FLI1 fusion sites from as little as 100 ng template DNA. Characterization of the EWS-FLI1 fusion sites of 42 pediatric and young adult Ewing sarcoma patients and seven cell lines revealed a clustering in the 5' region of the EWS-breakpoint cluster region (BCR), in contrast to random distribution of breakpoints in the FLI1-BCR. No association of breakpoints with various recombination-inducing sequence motifs was identified. The occurrence of small deletions and duplications at the genomic junction is characteristic of involvement of the non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) repair system, similar to findings at chromosomal breakpoints in pediatric leukemia and lymphoma.
Project description:Ewing sarcoma is an aggressive pediatric cancer of enigmatic cellular origins typically resulting from a single translocation event t (11; 22) (q24; q12). The resulting fusion gene, EWSR1-FLI1, is toxic or unstable in most primary tissues. Consequently, attempts to model Ewing sarcomagenesis have proven unsuccessful thus far, highlighting the need to identify the cellular features which permit stable EWSR1-FLI1 expression. By re-analyzing publicly available RNA-Sequencing data with manifold learning techniques, we uncovered a group of Ewing-like tissues belonging to a developmental trajectory between pluripotent, neuroectodermal, and mesodermal cell states. Furthermore, we demonstrated that EWSR1-FLI1 expression levels control the activation of these developmental trajectories within Ewing sarcoma cells. Subsequent analysis and experimental validation demonstrated that the capability to resolve R-loops and mitigate replication stress are probable prerequisites for stable EWSR1-FLI1 expression in primary tissues. Taken together, our results demonstrate how EWSR1-FLI1 hijacks developmental gene programs and advances our understanding of Ewing sarcomagenesis.
Project description:EWS/FLI1 is a fusion gene product generated by a chromosomal translocation t(11;22)(q24;q12) found in Ewing sarcoma. EWS/FLI1 encodes an aberrant transcription factor with oncogenic properties in vitro. Paradoxically, expression of EWS/FLI1 in nontransformed primary cells results in apoptosis, but the exact mechanism remains unclear. In primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts derived from conditional EWS/FLI1 knock-in embryos, expression of EWS/FLI1 resulted in apoptosis with concomitant increase in the endogenous Caspase 3 (Casp3) mRNA. EWS/FLI1 directly bound and activated the CASP3 promoter, whereas small interfering RNA-mediated knockdown of EWS/FLI1 led to a marked decrease in CASP3 transcripts in Ewing sarcoma cell lines. Ectopic expression of EWS/FLI1 resulted in an increased expression of CASP3 protein in heterologous cell lines. Importantly, expression of EWS/FLI1 in the mouse triggered an early onset of apoptosis in kidneys and acute lethality. These findings suggest that EWS/FLI1 induces apoptosis, at least partially, through the activation of CASP3 and show the cell context-dependent roles of EWS/FLI1 in apoptosis and tumorigenesis.
Project description:Ewing sarcoma is the second most common pediatric bone and soft tissue tumor presenting with an aggressive behavior and prevalence to metastasize. The diagnostic translocation t(22;11)(q24;12) leads to expression of the chimeric oncoprotein EWS-FLI1 which is uniquely expressed in all tumor cells and maintains their survival. Constant EWS-FLI1 protein turnover is regulated by the ubiquitin proteasome system. Here, we now identified ubiquitin specific protease 19 (USP19) as a regulator of EWS-FLI1 stability using an siRNA based screening approach. Depletion of USP19 resulted in diminished EWS-FLI1 protein levels and, vice versa, upregulation of active USP19 stabilized the fusion protein. Importantly, stabilization appears to be specific for the fusion protein as it could not be observed neither for EWSR1 nor for FLI1 wild type proteins even though USP19 binds to the N-terminal EWS region to regulate deubiquitination of both EWS-FLI1 and EWSR1. Further, stable shUSP19 depletion resulted in decreased cell growth and diminished colony forming capacity in vitro, and significantly delayed tumor growth in vivo. Our findings not only provide novel insights into the importance of the N-terminal EWSR1 domain for regulation of fusion protein stability, but also indicate that inhibition of deubiquitinating enzyme(s) might constitute a novel therapeutic strategy in treatment of Ewing sarcoma.
Project description:Ewing sarcoma (ES) is the second most frequent bone cancer in childhood and is characterized by the presence of the balanced translocation t(11;22)(q24;q12) in more than 85% of cases, generating a dysregulated transcription factor EWS/FLI1. This fusion protein is an essential oncogenic component of ES development which is necessary for tumor cell maintenance and represents an attractive therapeutic target. To search for modulators of EWS/FLI1 activity we screened a library of 153 targeted compounds and identified inhibitors of the PI3K pathway to directly modulate EWS/FLI1 transcription. Surprisingly, treatment of four different ES cell lines with BEZ235 resulted in down regulation of EWS/FLI1 mRNA and protein by ~50% with subsequent modulation of target gene expression. Analysis of the EWS/FLI1 promoter region (-2239/+67) using various deletion constructs identified two 14 bp minimal elements as being important for EWS/FLI1 transcription. We identified SP1 as modulator of EWS/FLI1 gene expression and demonstrated direct binding to one of these regions in the EWS/FLI1 promoter by EMSA and ChIP experiments. These results provide the first insights on the transcriptional regulation of EWS/FLI1, an area that has not been investigated so far, and offer an additional molecular explanation for the known sensitivity of ES cell lines to PI3K inhibition.
Project description:Ewing sarcoma breakpoint region 1 (EWSR1) fusion with Friend leukemia integration 1 transcription factor (FLI1) induced by a translocation of chromosome 11 with 22 contributes to Ewing sarcoma development. To date, the precise molecular mechanisms about EWSR1/FLI1 involving in Ewing sarcoma development remains to be defined. This study explored the potential critical gene targets of EWSR1/FLI1 knockdown in Ewing sarcoma cells on the gene expression profile based on online dataset, performed Limma algorithm for differentially expressed genes identification, constructed the transcriptional factor (TF)-gene regulatory network based on integrate transcriptional regulatory element database (TRED). The data showed up- and down-regulation of differentially expressed genes over time and peaked at 72 h after EWSR1/FLI1 knockdown in Ewing sarcoma cells. SMAD3 were up-regulated and FLI1, MYB, E2F1, ETS2, WT1 were down-regulated with more than half of their targets were down-regulated after EWSR1/FLI1 knockdown. The Gene Ontology (GO) and pathway annotation of these differentially expressed genes showed a consistent trend in each group of samples. Totally, there were 355 differentially expressed genes occurring in all five comparison groups of different time points, in which 39 genes constructed a dysregulated TF-gene network in Ewing sarcoma cell line A673 after EWSR1/FLI1 knockdown. These data demonstrated that knockdown of EWSR1/FLI1 expression led to transcriptome changes in Ewing sarcoma cells and that Ewing sarcoma development and progression caused by altered EWSR1/FLI1 expression may be associated with more complex transcriptome changes.
Project description:E-26 transformation-specific (ETS) proteins are transcription factors directing gene expression through their conserved DNA binding domain. They are implicated as truncated forms or interchromosomal rearrangements in a variety of tumors including Ewing sarcoma, a pediatric tumor of the bone. Tumor cells express the chimeric oncoprotein EWS-FLI1 from a specific t(22;11)(q24;12) translocation. EWS-FLI1 harbors a strong transactivation domain from EWSR1 and the DNA-binding ETS domain of FLI1 in the C-terminal part of the protein. Although Ewing cells are crucially dependent on continuous expression of EWS-FLI1, its regulation of turnover has not been characterized in detail. Here, we identify the EWS-FLI1 protein as a substrate of the ubiquitin-proteasome system with a characteristic polyubiquitination pattern. Using a global protein stability approach, we determined the half-life of EWS-FLI1 to lie between 2 and 4 h, whereas full-length EWSR1 and FLI1 were more stable. By mass spectrometry, we identified two ubiquitin acceptor lysine residues of which only mutation of Lys-380 in the ETS domain of the FLI1 part abolished EWS-FLI1 ubiquitination and stabilized the protein posttranslationally. Expression of this highly stable mutant protein in Ewing cells while simultaneously depleting the endogenous wild type protein differentially modulates two subgroups of target genes to be either EWS-FLI1 protein-dependent or turnover-dependent. The majority of target genes are in an unaltered state and cannot be further activated. Our study provides novel insights into EWS-FLI1 turnover, a critical pathway in Ewing sarcoma pathogenesis, and lays new ground to develop novel therapeutic strategies in Ewing sarcoma.
Project description:Ewing sarcoma cells depend on the EWS-FLI1 fusion transcription factor for cell survival. Using an assay of EWS-FLI1 activity and genome-wide RNAi screening, we have identified proteins required for the processing of the EWS-FLI1 pre-mRNA. We show that Ewing sarcoma cells harboring a genomic breakpoint that retains exon 8 of EWSR1 require the RNA-binding protein HNRNPH1 to express in-frame EWS-FLI1. We also demonstrate the sensitivity of EWS-FLI1 fusion transcripts to the loss of function of the U2 snRNP component, SF3B1. Disrupted splicing of the EWS-FLI1 transcript alters EWS-FLI1 protein expression and EWS-FLI1-driven expression. Our results show that the processing of the EWS-FLI1 fusion RNA is a potentially targetable vulnerability in Ewing sarcoma cells.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The group of small blue round cell tumors encompasses a heterogeneous group of neoplasms characterized by primitive appearing round cells with few distinguishing histologic features. RESULTS:We report the case of a small blue round cell tumor with an EWS gene rearrangement detected by fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) analysis that mimicked Ewing sarcoma, but with unusual histology and immunohistochemical features. Multi-color karyotyping identified the presence of a t(2;22)(q34;q12) that was initially expected to represent a variant EWSR1-FEV translocation. After an extensive workup, the lesion is considered to represent a clear cell sarcoma harboring an EWSR1-CREB1 fusion transcript. CONCLUSIONS:This case appears to represent a rare variant of clear cell sarcoma arising in peripheral soft tissues with unusual histology and unique immunophenotype. In this circumstance, FISH for all EWSR1 translocation partners or RT- PCR for a spectrum of possible transcript variants is critically important for diagnosis, since cytogenetic analysis or clinical FISH assay using only commercial EWSR1 probes will be misleading.
Project description:Ewing sarcoma is characterized by a pathognomonic chromosomal translocation that generates the EWSR1-FLI1 chimeric transcription factor. The transcriptional targets of EWSR1-FLI1 that are essential for tumorigenicity are incompletely defined. Here, we found that EWSR1-FLI1 modulates the expression of cancer/testis (CT) antigen genes, whose expression is biased to the testes but is also activated in cancer. Among these CT antigens, fetal and adult testis expressed 1 (FATE1) is most robustly induced. EWSR1-FLI1 associates with the GGAA repeats in the proximal promoter of FATE1, which exhibits accessible chromatin exclusively in mesenchymal progenitor cells (MPCs) and Ewing sarcoma cells. Expression of EWSR1-FLI1 in non-Ewing sarcoma cells and in MPCs enhances FATE1 mRNA and protein expression. Conversely, depletion of EWSR1-FLI1 in Ewing sarcoma cells leads to a loss of FATE1 expression. Importantly, we found that FATE1 is required for survival and anchorage-independent growth in Ewing sarcoma cells via attenuating the accumulation of BNIP3L, a BH3-only protein that is toxic when stabilized. This action appears to be mediated by the E3 ligase RNF183. We propose that engaging FATE1 function can permit the bypass of cell death mechanisms that would otherwise inhibit tumor progression.