Reversible transition between the epithelial and mesenchymal states are key aspects of carcinoma cell dissemination and the metastatic disease, and thus, characterizing the molecular basis of the epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) is crucial to find druggable targets and more effective therapeutic approaches in cancer. Emerging studies suggest that epigenetic regulators might endorse cancer cells with the cell plasticity required to conduct dynamic changes in cell state during EMT. However, epigenetic mechanisms involved remain mostly unknown. Polycomb Repressive Complexes (PRCs) proteins are well-established epigenetic regulators of development and stem cell differentiation, but their role in different cancer systems is inconsistent and sometimes paradoxical. In this study, we have analysed the role of the PRC2 protein EZH2 in lung carcinoma cells. We found that besides its described role in CDKN2A-dependent cell proliferation, EZH2 upholds the epithelial state of cancer cells by repressing the transcription of hundreds of mesenchymal genes. Chemical inhibition or genetic removal of EZH2 promotes the residence of cancer cells in the mesenchymal state during reversible epithelial–mesenchymal transition. In fitting, analysis of human patient samples and tumour xenograft models indicate that EZH2 is required to efficiently repress mesenchymal genes and facilitate tumour colonization in vivo. Overall, this study discloses a novel role of PRC2 as a master regulator of EMT in carcinoma cells. This finding has important implications for the design of therapies based on EZH2 inhibitors in human cancer patients.
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We are very grateful to Diego de Miguel Perez and Dra. Maria Jose Serrano for providing cell lines and technical advice. We thank Dra. Aurora Serrano, Natasa Vukovic, core facilities at GENYO and the Animal Experimentation Unit at University of Granada for excellent technical support. We also thank the genomics unit at the CRG for assistance with RNA-seq and ChIP-seq experiments.
CGL was funded by the Consejería de Salud y Familias, Junta de Andalucía (RH-0139-2020) and SG-P is funded by Instituto de Salud Carlos III (CP19/00029, PI15/00336, PI19/01533). JAM is supported by RTI2018.101309B-C22 funded by MCIN/AEI/10.13039/501100011033/FEDER “Una manera de hacer Europa” and by the Chair “Doctors Galera-Requena in cancer stem cell research”. PCS is funded by Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (grant PID2020-119032RB-I00) and FEDER/Junta de Andalucía-Consejería de Transformación Económica, Industria, Conocimiento y Universidades (grants P20_00335 and B‐CTS‐40‐UGR20). The Landeira lab is supported by the Spanish ministry of science and innovation (PID2019-108108-100, EUR2021-122005), the Andalusian regional government (PC-0246-2017, PIER-0211-2019, PY20_00681) and the University of Granada (A-BIO-6-UGR20) grants.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Gallardo, A., Molina, A., Asenjo, H.G. et al. EZH2 endorses cell plasticity to non-small cell lung cancer cells facilitating mesenchymal to epithelial transition and tumour colonization. Oncogene 41, 3611–3624 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41388-022-02375-x
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