Spatiotemporal control of estrogen-responsive transcription in ERα-positive breast cancer cells

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Abstract

Recruitment of transcription machinery to target promoters for aberrant gene expression has been well studied, but underlying control directed by distant-acting enhancers remains unclear in cancer development. Our previous study demonstrated that distant estrogen response elements (DEREs) located on chromosome 20q13 are frequently amplified and translocated to other chromosomes in ERα-positive breast cancer cells. In this study, we used three-dimensional interphase fluorescence in situ hybridization to decipher spatiotemporal gathering of multiple DEREs in the nucleus. Upon estrogen stimulation, scattered 20q13 DEREs were mobilized to form regulatory depots for synchronized gene expression of target loci. A chromosome conformation capture assay coupled with chromatin immunoprecipitation further uncovered that ERα-bound regulatory depots are tethered to heterochromatin protein 1 (HP1) for coordinated chromatin movement and histone modifications of target loci, resulting in transcription repression. Neutralizing HP1 function dysregulated the formation of DERE-involved regulatory depots and transcription inactivation of candidate tumor-suppressor genes. Deletion of amplified DEREs using the CRISPR/Cas9 genomic-editing system profoundly altered transcriptional profiles of proliferation-associated signaling networks, resulting in reduction of cancer cell growth. These findings reveal a formerly uncharacterized feature wherein multiple copies of the amplicon congregate as transcriptional units in the nucleus for synchronous regulation of function-related loci in tumorigenesis. Disruption of their assembly can be a new strategy for treating breast cancers and other malignancies.

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