Epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) is the most lethal disease of the female reproductive tract, and although most patients respond to the initial treatment with platinum (cPt)-based compounds, relapse is very common. We investigated the role of epigenetic changes in cPt-sensitive and -resistant EOC cell lines and found distinct differences in their enhancer landscape. Clinical data revealed that two genes (JAK1 and FGF10), which gained large enhancer clusters in resistant EOC cell lines, could provide novel biomarkers for early patient stratification with statistical independence for JAK1. To modulate the enhancer remodeling process and prevent the acquisition of cPt resistance in EOC cells, we performed a chromatin-focused RNAi screen in the presence of cPt. We identified subunits of the Nucleosome Remodeling and Deacetylase (NuRD) complex as critical factors sensitizing the EOC cell line A2780 to platinum treatment. Suppression of the Methyl-CpG Binding Domain Protein 3 (MBD3) sensitized cells and prevented the establishment of resistance under prolonged cPt exposure through alterations of H3K27ac at enhancer regions, which are differentially regulated in cPt-resistant cells, leading to a less aggressive phenotype. Our work establishes JAK1 as an independent prognostic marker and the NuRD complex as a potential target for combinational therapy.
The lysine specific demethylase 1 (LSD1) plays a pivotal role in cellular differentiation by regulating the expression of key developmental genes in concert with different coregulatory proteins. This process is impaired in different cancer types and incompletely understood. To comprehensively identify functional coregulators of LSD1, we established a novel tractable fluorescent reporter system to monitor LSD1 activity in living cells. Combining this reporter system with a state-of-the-art multiplexed RNAi screen, we identify the DEAD-box helicase 19A (DDX19A) as a novel coregulator and demonstrate that suppression of Ddx19a results in an increase of R-loops and reduced LSD1-mediated gene silencing. We further show that DDX19A binds to tri-methylated lysine 27 of histone 3 (H3K27me3) and it regulates gene expression through the removal of transcription promoting R-loops. Our results uncover a novel transcriptional regulatory cascade where the downregulation of genes is dependent on the LSD1 mediated demethylation of histone H3 lysine 4 (H3K4). This allows the polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) to methylate H3K27, which serves as a binding site for DDX19A. Finally, the binding of DDX19A leads to the efficient removal of R-loops at active promoters, which further de-represses LSD1 and PRC2, establishing a positive feedback loop leading to a robust repression of the target gene.
Following the discovery of BRD4 as a non-oncogene addiction target in acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), bromodomain and extra terminal protein (BET) inhibitors are being explored as a promising therapeutic avenue in numerous cancers. While clinical trials have reported single-agent activity in advanced haematological malignancies, mechanisms determining the response to BET inhibition remain poorly understood. To identify factors involved in primary and acquired BET resistance in leukaemia, here we perform a chromatin-focused RNAi screen in a sensitive MLL–AF9;NrasG12D-driven AML mouse model, and investigate dynamic transcriptional profiles in sensitive and resistant mouse and human leukaemias. Our screen shows that suppression of the PRC2 complex, contrary to effects in other contexts, promotes BET inhibitor resistance in AML. PRC2 suppression does not directly affect the regulation of Brd4-dependent transcripts, but facilitates the remodelling of regulatory pathways that restore the transcription of key targets such as Myc. Similarly, while BET inhibition triggers acute MYC repression in human leukaemias regardless of their sensitivity, resistant leukaemias are uniformly characterized by their ability to rapidly restore MYC transcription. This process involves the activation and recruitment of WNT signalling components, which compensate for the loss of BRD4 and drive resistance in various cancer models. Dynamic chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing and self-transcribing active regulatory region sequencing of enhancer profiles reveal that BET-resistant states are characterized by remodelled regulatory landscapes, involving the activation of a focal MYC enhancer that recruits WNT machinery in response to BET inhibition. Together, our results identify and validate WNT signalling as a driver and candidate biomarker of primary and acquired BET resistance in leukaemia, and implicate the rewiring of transcriptional programs as an important mechanism promoting resistance to BET inhibitors and, potentially, other chromatin-targeted therapies.