Remodeling the cancer epigenome: mutations in the SWI/SNF complex offer new therapeutic opportunities.
ABSTRACT: INTRODUCTION:Cancer genome sequencing studies have discovered mutations in members of the SWItch/Sucrose Non-Fermentable (SWI/SNF) chromatin-remodeling complex in nearly 25% of human cancers. The SWI/SNF complex, first discovered in S. cerevisiae, shows strong conservation from yeast to Drosophila to mammals, contains approximately 10-12 subunits and regulates nucleosome positioning through the energy generated by its ATPase subunits. The unexpected finding of frequent mutations in the complex has fueled studies to identify the mechanisms that drive tumor development and the accompanying therapeutic vulnerabilities. Areas covered: In the review, we focus upon the potential roles different SWI/SNF subunit mutations play in human oncogenesis, their common and unique mechanisms of transformation and the potential for translating these mechanisms into targeted therapies for SWI/SNF-mutant tumors. Expert opinion: We currently have limited insights into how mutations in different SWI/SNF subunits drive the development of human tumors. Because the SWI/SNF complex participates in a broad range of normal cellular functions, defining specific oncogenic pathways has proved difficult. In addition, therapeutic options for SWI/SNF-mutant cancers have mainly evolved from high-throughput screens of cell lines with mutations in different subunits. Future studies should follow a more coherent plan to pinpoint common vulnerabilities among these tumors.
Project description:The SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex is composed of approximately 15 subunits, and approximately 20% of all cancers carry mutations in the genes encoding these subunits. Most of the genetic alterations in these genes are loss-of-function mutations. The identification of vulnerability based on synthetic lethality in cancers with SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex deficiency contributes to precision medicine. The SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex is involved in transcription, DNA repair, DNA replication, and chromosomal segregation. Cancers with deficiency in the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex show increased vulnerability derived from the loss of these functions. Synthetic lethal targets have been identified based on vulnerabilities in the functions of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex. In this review article, we propose a precision medicine strategy using chemotherapeutic methods, such as molecular targeted therapy and immunotherapy, based on harnessing synthetic lethality in cancers with deficiency in the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex.
Project description:Mammalian SWI/SNF (SWitch/Sucrose Non-Fermentable) complexes are ATP-dependent chromatin remodelers whose subunits have emerged among the most frequently mutated genes in cancer. Studying SWI/SNF function in cancer cell line models has unveiled vulnerabilities in SWI/SNF-mutant tumors that can lead to the discovery of new therapeutic drugs. However, choosing an appropriate cancer cell line model for SWI/SNF functional studies can be challenging because SWI/SNF subunits are frequently altered in cancer by various mechanisms, including genetic alterations and post-transcriptional mechanisms. In this work, we combined genomic, transcriptomic, and proteomic approaches to study the mutational status and the expression levels of the SWI/SNF subunits in a panel of 38 lung adenocarcinoma (LUAD) cell lines. We found that the SWI/SNF complex was mutated in more than 76% of our LUAD cell lines and there was a high variability in the expression of the different SWI/SNF subunits. These results underline the importance of the SWI/SNF complex as a tumor suppressor in LUAD and the difficulties in defining altered and unaltered cell models for the SWI/SNF complex. These findings will assist researchers in choosing the most suitable cellular models for their studies of SWI/SNF to bring all of its potential to the development of novel therapeutic applications.
Project description:The SWI/SNF complex is an important regulator of gene expression that functions by interacting with a diverse array of cellular proteins. The catalytic subunits of SWI/SNF, BRG1 and BRM, are frequently lost alone or concomitantly in a range of different cancer types. This loss abrogates SWI/SNF complex function as well as the functions of proteins that are required for SWI/SNF function, such as RB1 and TP53. Yet while both proteins are known to be dependent on SWI/SNF, we found that BRG1, but not BRM, is functionally linked to RB1, such that loss of BRG1 can directly or indirectly inactivate the RB1 pathway. This newly discovered dependence of RB1 on BRG1 is important because it explains why BRG1 loss can blunt the growth-inhibitory effect of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs). We also observed that selection for <i>Trp53</i> mutations occurred in Brm-positive tumors but did not occur in Brm-negative tumors. Hence, these data indicate that, during cancer development, Trp53 is functionally dependent on Brm but not Brg1. Our findings show for the first time the key differences in Brm- and Brg1-specific SWI/SNF complexes and help explain why concomitant loss of Brg1 and Brm frequently occurs in cancer, as well as how their loss impacts cancer development.
Project description:The SWI/SNF complex has important functions in the mobilization of nucleosomes and consequently influences gene expression. Numerous studies have demonstrated that mutations or deficiency of one or more subunits can have an oncogenic effect and influence the development, progression, and eventual therapy resistance of tumor diseases. Genes encoding subunits of the SWI/SNF complex are mutated in approximately 20% of all human tumors. This study aimed to investigate the frequency, association with clinicopathological characteristics, and prognosis of immunohistochemical expression of proteins of the SWI/SNF complexes, SMARCA2, SMARCA4 SMARCB1, ARID1A, ARID1B, and PBRM1 in 477 adenocarcinomas of the stomach and gastroesophageal junction. Additionally, the tumors were classified immunohistochemically in analogy to The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) classification. Overall, 32% of cases demonstrated aberrant expression of the SWI/SNF complex. Complete loss of SMARCA4 was detected in three cases (0.6%) and was associated with adverse clinical characteristics. SWI/SNF aberration emerged as an independent negative prognostic factor for overall survival in genomically stable patients in analogy to TCGA. In conclusion, determination of SWI/SNF status could be suggested in routine diagnostics in genomically stable tumors to identify patients who might benefit from new therapeutic options.
Project description:The 12-subunit Swi/Snf chromatin remodeling complex is conserved from yeast to humans. It functions to alter nucleosome positions by either sliding nucleosomes on DNA or evicting histones. Interestingly, 20% of all human cancers carry mutations in subunits of the Swi/Snf complex. Many of these mutations cause protein instability and loss, resulting in partial Swi/Snf complexes. Although several studies have shown that histone acetylation and activator-dependent recruitment of Swi/Snf regulate its function, it is less well understood how subunits regulate stability and function of the complex. Using functional proteomic and genomic approaches, we have assembled the network architecture of yeast Swi/Snf. In addition, we find that subunits of the Swi/Snf complex regulate occupancy of the catalytic subunit Snf2, thereby modulating gene transcription. Our findings have direct bearing on how cancer-causing mutations in orthologous subunits of human Swi/Snf may lead to aberrant regulation of gene expression by this complex.
Project description:SMARCB1 (INI1/SNF5/BAF47), a core subunit of the SWI/SNF (BAF) chromatin-remodeling complex, is inactivated in the large majority of rhabdoid tumors, and germline heterozygous SMARCB1 mutations form the basis for rhabdoid predisposition syndrome. Mouse models validated Smarcb1 as a bona fide tumor suppressor, as Smarcb1 inactivation in mice results in 100% of the animals rapidly developing cancer. SMARCB1 was the first subunit of the SWI/SNF complex found mutated in cancer. More recently, at least seven other genes encoding SWI/SNF subunits have been identified as recurrently mutated in cancer. Collectively, 20% of all human cancers contain a SWI/SNF mutation. Consequently, investigation of the mechanisms by which SMARCB1 mutation causes cancer has relevance not only for rhabdoid tumors, but also potentially for the wide variety of SWI/SNF mutant cancers. Here we discuss normal functions of SMARCB1 and the SWI/SNF complex as well as mechanistic and potentially therapeutic insights that have emerged.
Project description:Subunits of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex are frequently mutated in human cancers leading to epigenetic dependencies that are therapeutically targetable. The dependency on the polycomb repressive complex (PRC2) and EZH2 represents one such vulnerability in tumors with mutations in the SWI/SNF complex subunit, SNF5; however, whether this vulnerability extends to other SWI/SNF subunit mutations is not well understood. Here we show that a subset of cancers harboring mutations in the SWI/SNF ATPase, SMARCA4, is sensitive to EZH2 inhibition. EZH2 inhibition results in a heterogenous phenotypic response characterized by senescence and/or apoptosis in different models, and also leads to tumor growth inhibition in vivo. Lower expression of the SMARCA2 paralog was associated with cellular sensitivity to EZH2 inhibition in SMARCA4 mutant cancer models, independent of tissue derivation. SMARCA2 is suppressed by PRC2 in sensitive models, and induced SMARCA2 expression can compensate for SMARCA4 and antagonize PRC2 targets. The induction of SMARCA2 in response to EZH2 inhibition is required for apoptosis, but not for growth arrest, through a mechanism involving the derepression of the lysomal protease cathepsin B. Expression of SMARCA2 also delineates EZH2 inhibitor sensitivity for other SWI/SNF complex subunit mutant tumors, including SNF5 and ARID1A mutant cancers. Our data support monitoring SMARCA2 expression as a predictive biomarker for EZH2-targeted therapies in the context of SWI/SNF mutant cancers.
Project description:Emerging evidence demonstrates that subunits of the SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complex are specifically mutated at high frequency in a variety of human cancer types. SNF5 (SMARCB1/INI1/BAF47), a core subunit of the SWI/SNF complex, is inactivated in the vast majority of rhabdoid tumors (RT), an aggressive type of pediatric cancer. SNF5-deficient cancers are diploid and genomically stable, suggesting that epigenetically based changes in transcription are key drivers of tumor formation caused by SNF5 loss. However, there is limited understanding of the target genes that drive cancer formation following SNF5 loss. Here we performed comparative expression analyses upon three independent SNF5-deficient cancer data sets from both human and mouse and identify downregulation of the BIN1 tumor suppressor as a conserved event in primary SNF5-deficient cancers. We show that SNF5 recruits the SWI/SNF complex to the BIN1 promoter, and that the marked reduction of BIN1 expression in RT correlates with decreased SWI/SNF occupancy. Functionally, we demonstrate that re-expression of BIN1 specifically compromises the proliferation of SNF5-deficient RT cell lines. Identification of BIN1 as a SNF5 target gene reveals a novel tumor suppressive regulatory mechanism whose disruption can drive cancer formation.
Project description:Human cancer genome sequencing has recently revealed that genes that encode subunits of SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling complexes are frequently mutated across a wide variety of cancers, and several subunits of the complex have been shown to have bona fide tumor suppressor activity. However, whether mutations in SWI/SNF subunits result in shared dependencies is unknown. Here we show that EZH2, a catalytic subunit of the polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2), is essential in all tested cancer cell lines and xenografts harboring mutations of the SWI/SNF subunits ARID1A, PBRM1, and SMARCA4, which are several of the most frequently mutated SWI/SNF subunits in human cancer, but that co-occurrence of a Ras pathway mutation is correlated with abrogation of this dependence. Notably, we demonstrate that SWI/SNF-mutant cancer cells are primarily dependent on a non-catalytic role of EZH2 in the stabilization of the PRC2 complex, and that they are only partially dependent on EZH2 histone methyltransferase activity. These results not only reveal a shared dependency of cancers with genetic alterations in SWI/SNF subunits, but also suggest that EZH2 enzymatic inhibitors now in clinical development may not fully suppress the oncogenic activity of EZH2.
Project description:Subunits of mammalian SWI/SNF (mSWI/SNF or BAF) complexes have recently been implicated as tumor suppressors in human malignancies. To understand the full extent of their involvement, we conducted a proteomic analysis of endogenous mSWI/SNF complexes, which identified several new dedicated, stable subunits not found in yeast SWI/SNF complexes, including BCL7A, BCL7B and BCL7C, BCL11A and BCL11B, BRD9 and SS18. Incorporating these new members, we determined mSWI/SNF subunit mutation frequency in exome and whole-genome sequencing studies of primary human tumors. Notably, mSWI/SNF subunits are mutated in 19.6% of all human tumors reported in 44 studies. Our analysis suggests that specific subunits protect against cancer in specific tissues. In addition, mutations affecting more than one subunit, defined here as compound heterozygosity, are prevalent in certain cancers. Our studies demonstrate that mSWI/SNF is the most frequently mutated chromatin-regulatory complex (CRC) in human cancer, exhibiting a broad mutation pattern, similar to that of TP53. Thus, proper functioning of polymorphic BAF complexes may constitute a major mechanism of tumor suppression.