The mechanism underlying EZH2 overexpression in breast cancer and its involvement in tumorigenesis remain poorly understood. In this study, we developed an approach to systematically identify the trans-acting factors regulating the EZH2 expression, and identified more than 20 such factors. We revealed reciprocal regulation of early growth response 1 (EGR1) and EZH2: EGR1 activates the expression of EZH2, and EZH2 represses EGR1 expression. Using CRISPR-mediated genome/epigenome editing, we demonstrated that EHZ2 represses EGR1 expression through a silencer downstream of the EGR1 gene. Deletion of the EGR1 silencer resulted in reduced cell growth, invasion, tumorigenicity of breast cancer cells, and extensive changes in gene expression, such as upregulation of GADD45, DDIT3, and RND1; and downregulation of genes encoding cholesterol biosynthesis pathway enzymes. We hypothesize that EZH2/PRC2 acts as a “brake” for EGR1 expression by targeting the EGR1 silencer, and EZH2 overexpression dampens tumor-suppressive signals mediated by EGR1 to drive breast tumorigenesis.
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The RNA-seq data are deposited in the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO) database under the accession number GSE134876.
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This work was funded by the Science and Technology Development Fund, Macau SAR (File no. 137/2014/A3 and 095/2015/A3), the Science and Technology Program of Guangzhou, China (201807010101), and the Research & Development Administration Office of the University of Macau (MYRG201700099, MYRG2018-00022) awarded to GL.
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Guan, X., Deng, H., Choi, U.L. et al. EZH2 overexpression dampens tumor-suppressive signals via an EGR1 silencer to drive breast tumorigenesis. Oncogene 39, 7127–7141 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41388-020-01484-9