The orphan nuclear receptor DAX1 is up-regulated by the EWS/FLI1 oncoprotein and is highly expressed in Ewing tumors

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The Ewing family of tumors harbors chromosomal translocations that join the N-terminal region of theEWSgene with the C-terminal region of several transcription factors of the ETS family, mainlyFLI1, resulting in chimeric transcription factors that play a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of Ewing tumors. To identify downstream targets of the EWS/FLI1 fusion protein, we established 293 cells expressing constitutively either the chimeric EWS/FLI1 or wild type FLI1 proteins and used cDNA arrays to identify genes differentially regulated by EWS/FLI1. DAX1 (NR0B1), an unusual orphan nuclear receptor involved in gonadal development, sex determination and steroidogenesis, showed a consistent up-regulation by EWS/FLI1 oncoprotein, but not by wild type FLI1. Specific induction of DAX1 by EWS/FLI1 was confirmed in two independent cell systems with inducible expression of EWS/FLI1. We also analyzed the expression of DAX1 in Ewing tumors and derived cell lines, as well as in other nonrelated small round cell tumors. DAX1 was expressed in all Ewing tumor specimens analyzed, and in seven out of eight Ewing tumor cell lines, but not in any neuroblastoma or embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma. Furthermore, silencing of EWS/FLI1 by RNA interference in a Ewing tumor cell line markedly reduced the levels of DAX1 mRNA and protein, confirming that DAX1 up-regulation is dependent upon EWS/FLI1 expression. The high levels of DAX1 found in Ewing tumors and its potent transcriptional repressor activity suggest that the oncogenic effect of EWS/FLI1 may be mediated, at least in part, by the up-regulation of DAX1 expression.

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