Clinical impact of EZH2 and its antagonist SMARCA4 in ovarian cancer.
ABSTRACT: SMARCA4 and EZH2 are two functional key players of their respective antagonizing chromatin remodeling complexes SWI/SNF and PRC2. EZH2 inhibitory drugs may abrogate pro-oncogenic features of PRC2 and turn the balance to cell differentiation via SWI/SNF activity in cancers. SMARCA4 and EZH2 expression was assessed by RT-PCR in 238 epithelial ovarian cancers (OCs) and put in relation to clinico-pathological parameters and patients' outcome. Optimal thresholds for high and low expression of both variables were calculated by the Youden's index based on receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves. High SMARCA4 mRNA expression was independently associated with favorable progression-free survival (PFS) (P?=?0.03) and overall survival (OS) (P?=?0.018). As Youden's threshold determination for EZH2 yielded a S-shaped ROC-curve, two cut-off points (29th and 94th percentile) predicting opposite features were defined. Whereas EZH2 mRNA levels beyond the 29th percentile independently predicted poor PFS (P?=?0.034), Cox-regression in EZH2 transcripts above the 94th percentile revealed a conversion from unfavorable to favorable PFS and OS (P?=?0.009 and P?=?0.032, respectively). High SMARCA4 expression associates with improved survival, whereas moderate/high EZH2 expression predicts poor outcome, which converts to favorable survival in ultra-high expressing OCs. This small OC subgroup could be characterized by REV7-abrogated platinum hypersensitivity but concomitant PARP-inhibitor resistance.
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: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:Inactivation of the subunits of SWI/SNF complex such as ARID1A is synthetically lethal with inhibition of EZH2 activity. However, mechanisms of de novo resistance to EZH2 inhibitors in cancers with inactivating SWI/SNF mutations are unknown. Here we show that the switch of the SWI/SNF catalytic subunits from SMARCA4 to SMARCA2 drives resistance to EZH2 inhibitors in ARID1A-mutated cells. SMARCA4 loss upregulates anti-apoptotic genes in the EZH2 inhibitor-resistant cells. EZH2 inhibitor-resistant ARID1A-mutated cells are hypersensitive to BCL2 inhibitors such as ABT263. ABT263 is sufficient to overcome resistance to an EZH2 inhibitor. In addition, ABT263 synergizes with an EZH2 inhibitor in vivo in ARID1A-inactivated ovarian tumor mouse models. Together, these data establish that the switch of the SWI/SNF catalytic subunits from SMARCA4 to SMARCA2 underlies the acquired resistance to EZH2 inhibitors. They suggest BCL2 inhibition alone or in combination with EZH2 inhibition represents urgently needed therapeutic strategy for ARID1A-mutated cancers.
Project description:The histone methyltransferase activity of PRC2 is central to the formation of H3K27me3-decorated facultative heterochromatin and gene silencing. In addition, PRC2 has been shown to automethylate its core subunits, EZH1/EZH2 and SUZ12. Here, we identify the lysine residues at which EZH1/EZH2 are automethylated with EZH2-K510 and EZH2-K514 being the major such sites in vivo. Automethylated EZH2/PRC2 exhibits a higher level of histone methyltransferase activity and is required for attaining proper cellular levels of H3K27me3. While occurring independently of PRC2 recruitment to chromatin, automethylation promotes PRC2 accessibility to the histone H3 tail. Intriguingly, EZH2 automethylation is significantly reduced in diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) cells that carry a lysine-to-methionine substitution in histone H3 (H3K27M), but not in cells that carry either EZH2 or EED mutants that abrogate PRC2 allosteric activation, indicating that H3K27M impairs the intrinsic activity of PRC2. Our study demonstrates a PRC2 self-regulatory mechanism through its EZH1/2-mediated automethylation activity.
Project description:Polycomb-repressive complex 2 (PRC2) comprises specific members of the Polycomb group of epigenetic modulators. PRC2 catalyzes methylation of histone H3 at Lys 27 (H3K27me3) through its Enhancer of zeste (Ezh) constituent, of which there are two mammalian homologs: Ezh1 and Ezh2. Several ancillary factors, including Jarid2, modulate PRC2 function, with Jarid2 facilitating its recruitment to target genes. Jarid2, like Ezh2, is present in poorly differentiated and actively dividing cells, while Ezh1 associates with PRC2 in all cells, including resting cells. We found that Jarid2 exhibits nucleosome-binding activity that contributes to PRC2 stimulation. Moreover, such nucleosome-binding activity is exhibited by PRC2 comprising Ezh1 (PRC2-Ezh1), in contrast to PRC2-Ezh2. The presence of Ezh1 helps to maintain PRC2 occupancy on its target genes in myoblasts where Jarid2 is not expressed. Our findings allow us to propose a model in which PRC2-Ezh2 is important for the de novo establishment of H3K27me3 in dividing cells, whereas PRC2-Ezh1 is required for its maintenance in resting cells.
Project description:The maintenance of gene expression patterns during metazoan development is achieved, in part, by the actions of polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2). PRC2 catalyzes mono-, di-, and trimethylation of histone H3 at lysine 27 (H3K27), with H3K27me2/3 being strongly associated with silenced genes. We demonstrate that EZH1 and EZH2, the two mutually exclusive catalytic subunits of PRC2, are differentially activated by various mechanisms. Whereas both PRC2-EZH1 and PRC2-EZH2 are able to catalyze mono- and dimethylation, only PRC2-EZH2 is strongly activated by allosteric modulators and specific chromatin substrates to catalyze trimethylation of H3K27 in mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs). However, we also show that a PRC2-associated protein, AEBP2, can stimulate the activity of both complexes through a mechanism independent of and additive to allosteric activation. These results have strong implications regarding the cellular requirements for and the accompanying adjustments in PRC2 activity, given the differential expression of EZH1 and EZH2 upon cellular differentiation.
Project description:A growing body of data suggests the importance of epigenetic mechanisms in cancer. Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) has been implicated in self-renewal and cancer progression, and its components are overexpressed in many cancers. However, its role in cancer development and progression remains unclear. We used conditional alleles for the PRC2 components enhancer of zeste 2 (Ezh2) and embryonic ectoderm development (Eed) to characterize the role of PRC2 function in leukemia development and progression. Compared with wild-type leukemia, Ezh2-null MLL-AF9-mediated acute myeloid leukemia (AML) failed to accelerate upon secondary transplantation. However, Ezh2-null leukemias maintained self-renewal up to the third round of transplantation, indicating that Ezh2 is not strictly required for MLL-AF9 AML, but plays a role in leukemia progression. Genome-wide analyses of PRC2-mediated trimethylation of histone 3 demonstrated locus-specific persistence of H3K27me3 despite inactivation of Ezh2, suggesting partial compensation by Ezh1. In contrast, inactivation of the essential PRC2 gene, Eed, led to complete ablation of PRC2 function, which was incompatible with leukemia growth. Gene expression array analyses indicated more profound gene expression changes in Eed-null compared with Ezh2-null leukemic cells, including down-regulation of Myc target genes and up-regulation of PRC2 targets. Manipulating PRC2 function may be of therapeutic benefit in AML.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) is responsible for establishing and maintaining histone H3K27 methylation during cell differentiation and proliferation. H3K27 can be mono-, di-, or trimethylated, resulting in differential gene regulation. However, it remains unknown how PRC2 specifies the degree and biological effects of H3K27 methylation within a given cellular context. One way to determine PRC2 specificity may be through alternative splicing of Ezh2, PRC2's catalytic subunit, during cell differentiation and tissue maturation. RESULTS:We fully characterized the alternative splicing of Ezh2 in somatic cells and male germ cells and found that Ezh's exon 14 was differentially regulated during mitosis and meiosis. The Ezh2 isoform containing exon 14 (ex14-Ezh2) is upregulated during cell cycle progression, consistent with a role in maintaining H3K27 methylation during chromatin replication. In contrast, the isoform lacking exon 14 (ex14D-Ezh2) was almost exclusively present in spermatocytes when new H3K27me2 is established during meiotic differentiation. Moreover, Ezh2's transcript is normally controlled by E2F transcription activators, but in spermatocytes, Ezh2's transcription is controlled by the meiotic regulator MYBL1. Compared to ex14-EZH2, ex14D-EZH2 has a diminished efficiency for catalyzing H3K27me3 and promotes embryonic stem cell differentiation. CONCLUSIONS:Ezh2's expression is regulated at transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels in a cellular context-dependent manner. EZH2 variants determine functional specificity of PRC2 in histone methylation during cell proliferation and differentiation.
Project description:Enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) is the histone lysine N-methyltransferase component of the Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2), which, in conjunction with embryonic ectoderm development (EED) and suppressor of zeste 12 homolog, regulates cell lineage determination and homeostasis. Enzymatic hyperactivity has been linked to aberrant repression of tumor suppressor genes in diverse cancers. Here, we report the development of stabilized ?-helix of EZH2 (SAH-EZH2) peptides that selectively inhibit H3 Lys27 trimethylation by dose-responsively disrupting the EZH2-EED complex and reducing EZH2 protein levels, a mechanism distinct from that reported for small-molecule EZH2 inhibitors targeting the enzyme catalytic domain. MLL-AF9 leukemia cells, which are dependent on PRC2, undergo growth arrest and monocyte-macrophage differentiation upon treatment with SAH-EZH2, consistent with observed changes in expression of PRC2-regulated, lineage-specific marker genes. Thus, by dissociating the EZH2-EED complex, we pharmacologically modulate an epigenetic 'writer' and suppress PRC2-dependent cancer cell growth.