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Histone methyltransferase NSD2 mediates the survival and invasion of triple-negative breast cancer cells via stimulating ADAM9-EGFR-AKT signaling


Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is a heterogeneous disease with a poor prognosis due to the lack of an effective targeted therapy. Histone lysine methyltransferases (KMTs) have emerged as attractive drug targets for cancer therapy. However, the function of the majority of KMTs in TNBC has remained largely unknown. In the current study, we found that KMT nuclear receptor binding SET domain protein 2 (NSD2) is overexpressed in TNBC tumors and that its overexpression is associated with poor survival of TNBC patients. NSD2 regulates TNBC cell survival and invasion and is required for tumorigenesis and tumor growth. Mechanistically, NSD2 directly controls the expression of EGFR and ADAM9, a member of the ADAM (a disintegrin and metalloproteinase) family that mediates the release of growth factors, such as HB-EGF. Through its methylase activity, NSD2 overexpression stimulates EGFR-AKT signaling and promotes TNBC cell resistance to the EGFR inhibitor gefitinib. Together, our results identify NSD2 as a major epigenetic regulator in TNBC and provide a rationale for targeting NSD2 alone or in combination with EGFR inhibitors as a targeted therapy for TNBC.

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This work was supported in part by grants from the NIH R01DK060019 and R01CA206222 to Hong-Wu Chen, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81673037) and the Department of Education, Guangdong Government under the Top-tier University Development Scheme for Research and Control of Infectious Diseases (No. 2015017) to Jian-zhen Xu, the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81373655) to Hai-bin Wang and National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81872891) to Jun-jian Wang.

Author contributions

H.-W.C. and J.W. conceived the research. H.-W.C. and J.W. designed the research. J.W., P.C., Z.D., H.W. and J.X.Z. performed research. H.-W.C., J.W., J.X.Z. and H.-B.W. analyzed the data. H.-W.C., J.W., P.L. and J.X.Z. wrote and/or edited the manuscript.

Author information

Correspondence to Jian-Zhen Xu or Hong-Wu Chen.

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  • NSD2
  • Cell survival
  • Cell invasion
  • Histone methyltransferase
  • Triple-negative breast cancer
  • EGFR
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