Cancer is often seen as a disease of mutations and chromosomal abnormalities. However, some cancers, including pediatric rhabdoid tumors (RTs), lack recurrent alterations targetable by current drugs and need alternative, informed therapeutic options. To nominate potential targets, we performed a high-throughput small-molecule screen complemented by a genome-scale CRISPR-Cas9 gene-knockout screen in a large number of RT and control cell lines. These approaches converged to reveal several receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) as therapeutic targets, with RTK inhibition effective in suppressing RT cell growth in vitro and against a xenograft model in vivo. RT cell lines highly express and activate (phosphorylate) different RTKs, creating dependency without mutation or amplification. Downstream of RTK signaling, we identified PTPN11, encoding the pro-growth signaling protein SHP2, as a shared dependency across all RT cell lines. This study demonstrates that large-scale perturbational screening can uncover vulnerabilities in cancers with "quiet" genomes.
Howard TP, Arnoff TE, Song MR, Giacomelli AO, Wang X, Hong AL, Dharia NV, Wang S, Vazquez F, Pham M-T, Morgan AM, Wachter F, Bird GH, Kugener G, Oberlick EM, Rees MG, Tiv HL, Hwang JH, Walsh KH, Cook A, Krill-Burger JM, Tsherniak A, Gokhale PC, Park PJ, Stegmaier K, Walensky LD, Hahn WC, Roberts CWM. MDM2 and MDM4 Are Therapeutic Vulnerabilities in Malignant Rhabdoid Tumors. Cancer Research 2019;79(9)Abstract
Malignant rhabdoid tumors (MRT) are highly aggressive pediatric cancers that respond poorly to current therapies. In this study, we screened several MRT cell lines with large-scale RNAi, CRISPR-Cas9, and small-molecule libraries to identify potential drug targets specific for these cancers. We discovered MDM2 and MDM4, the canonical negative regulators of p53, as significant vulnerabilities. Using two compounds currently in clinical development, idasanutlin (MDM2-specific) and ATSP-7041 (MDM2/4-dual), we show that MRT cells were more sensitive than other p53 wild-type cancer cell lines to inhibition of MDM2 alone as well as dual inhibition of MDM2/4. These compounds caused significant upregulation of the p53 pathway in MRT cells, and sensitivity was ablated by CRISPR-Cas9–mediated inactivation of TP53. We show that loss of SMARCB1, a subunit of the SWI/SNF (BAF) complex mutated in nearly all MRTs, sensitized cells to MDM2 and MDM2/4 inhibition by enhancing p53-mediated apoptosis. Both MDM2 and MDM2/4 inhibition slowed MRT xenograft growth in vivo, with a 5-day idasanutlin pulse causing marked regression of all xenografts, including durable complete responses in 50% of mice. Together, these studies identify a genetic connection between mutations in the SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling complex and the tumor suppressor gene TP53 and provide preclinical evidence to support the targeting of MDM2 and MDM4 in this often-fatal pediatric cancer.
Bromodomain-containing protein 9 (BRD9) is a recently identified subunit of SWI/SNF(BAF) chromatin remodeling complexes, yet its function is poorly understood. Here, using a genome-wide CRISPR-Cas9 screen, we show that BRD9 is a specific vulnerability in pediatric malignant rhabdoid tumors (RTs), which are driven by inactivation of the SMARCB1 subunit of SWI/SNF. We find that BRD9 exists in a unique SWI/SNF sub-complex that lacks SMARCB1, which has been considered a core subunit. While SMARCB1-containing SWI/SNF complexes are bound preferentially at enhancers, we show that BRD9-containing complexes exist at both promoters and enhancers. Mechanistically, we show that SMARCB1 loss causes increased BRD9 incorporation into SWI/SNF thus providing insight into BRD9 vulnerability in RTs. Underlying the dependency, while its bromodomain is dispensable, the DUF3512 domain of BRD9 is essential for SWI/SNF integrity in the absence of SMARCB1. Collectively, our results reveal a BRD9-containing SWI/SNF subcomplex is required for the survival of SMARCB1-mutant RTs.
Genes encoding subunits of SWI/SNF (BAF) chromatin remodelling complexes are collectively altered in over 20% of human malignancies, but the mechanisms by which these complexes alter chromatin to modulate transcription and cell fate are poorly understood. Utilizing mouse embryonic fibroblast and cancer cell line models, here we show via ChIP-seq and biochemical assays that SWI/SNF complexes are preferentially targeted to distal lineage specific enhancers and interact with p300 to modulate histone H3 lysine 27 acetylation. We identify a greater requirement for SWI/SNF at typical enhancers than at most super-enhancers and at enhancers in untranscribed regions than in transcribed regions. Our data further demonstrate that SWI/SNF-dependent distal enhancers are essential for controlling expression of genes linked to developmental processes. Our findings thus establish SWI/SNF complexes as regulators of the enhancer landscape and provide insight into the roles of SWI/SNF in cellular fate control.
SMARCB1 (also known as SNF5, INI1, and BAF47), a core subunit of the SWI/SNF (BAF) chromatin-remodeling complex, is inactivated in nearly all pediatric rhabdoid tumors. These aggressive cancers are among the most genomically stable, suggesting an epigenetic mechanism by which SMARCB1 loss drives transformation. Here we show that, despite having indistinguishable mutational landscapes, human rhabdoid tumors exhibit distinct enhancer H3K27ac signatures, which identify remnants of differentiation programs. We show that SMARCB1 is required for the integrity of SWI/SNF complexes and that its loss alters enhancer targeting-markedly impairing SWI/SNF binding to typical enhancers, particularly those required for differentiation, while maintaining SWI/SNF binding at super-enhancers. We show that these retained super-enhancers are essential for rhabdoid tumor survival, including some that are shared by all subtypes, such as SPRY1, and other lineage-specific super-enhancers, such as SOX2 in brain-derived rhabdoid tumors. Taken together, our findings identify a new chromatin-based epigenetic mechanism underlying the tumor-suppressive activity of SMARCB1.
Genes encoding subunits of SWI/SNF (BAF) chromatin-remodeling complexes are collectively mutated in ∼20% of all human cancers. Although ARID1A is the most frequent target of mutations, the mechanism by which its inactivation promotes tumorigenesis is unclear. Here we demonstrate that Arid1a functions as a tumor suppressor in the mouse colon, but not the small intestine, and that invasive ARID1A-deficient adenocarcinomas resemble human colorectal cancer (CRC). These tumors lack deregulation of APC/β-catenin signaling components, which are crucial gatekeepers in common forms of intestinal cancer. We find that ARID1A normally targets SWI/SNF complexes to enhancers, where they function in coordination with transcription factors to facilitate gene activation. ARID1B preserves SWI/SNF function in ARID1A-deficient cells, but defects in SWI/SNF targeting and control of enhancer activity cause extensive dysregulation of gene expression. These findings represent an advance in colon cancer modeling and implicate enhancer-mediated gene regulation as a principal tumor-suppressor function of ARID1A.
Precise nucleosome-positioning patterns at promoters are thought to be crucial for faithful transcriptional regulation. However, the mechanisms by which these patterns are established, are dynamically maintained, and subsequently contribute to transcriptional control are poorly understood. The switch/sucrose non-fermentable chromatin remodeling complex, also known as the Brg1 associated factors complex, is a master developmental regulator and tumor suppressor capable of mobilizing nucleosomes in biochemical assays. However, its role in establishing the nucleosome landscape in vivo is unclear. Here we have inactivated Snf5 and Brg1, core subunits of the mammalian Swi/Snf complex, to evaluate their effects on chromatin structure and transcription levels genomewide. We find that inactivation of either subunit leads to disruptions of specific nucleosome patterning combined with a loss of overall nucleosome occupancy at a large number of promoters, regardless of their association with CpG islands. These rearrangements are accompanied by gene expression changes that promote cell proliferation. Collectively, these findings define a direct relationship between chromatin-remodeling complexes, chromatin structure, and transcriptional regulation.
Aberrant activation of the Hedgehog (Hh) pathway can drive tumorigenesis. To investigate the mechanism by which glioma-associated oncogene family zinc finger-1 (GLI1), a crucial effector of Hh signaling, regulates Hh pathway activation, we searched for GLI1-interacting proteins. We report that the chromatin remodeling protein SNF5 (encoded by SMARCB1, hereafter called SNF5), which is inactivated in human malignant rhabdoid tumors (MRTs), interacts with GLI1. We show that Snf5 localizes to Gli1-regulated promoters and that loss of Snf5 leads to activation of the Hh-Gli pathway. Conversely, re-expression of SNF5 in MRT cells represses GLI1. Consistent with this, we show the presence of a Hh-Gli-activated gene expression profile in primary MRTs and show that GLI1 drives the growth of SNF5-deficient MRT cells in vitro and in vivo. Therefore, our studies reveal that SNF5 is a key mediator of Hh signaling and that aberrant activation of GLI1 is a previously undescribed targetable mechanism contributing to the growth of MRT cells.