EWS-FLI1 perturbs MRTFB/YAP-1/TEAD target gene regulation inhibiting cytoskeletal autoregulatory feedback in Ewing sarcoma

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Ewing sarcoma (EWS) is a paediatric bone cancer with high metastatic potential. Cellular plasticity resulting from dynamic cytoskeletal reorganization, typically regulated via the Rho pathway, is a prerequisite for metastasis initiation. Here, we interrogated the role of the Ewing sarcoma driver oncogene EWS-FLI1 in cytoskeletal reprogramming. We report that EWS-FLI1 strongly represses the activity of the Rho-F-actin signal pathway transcriptional effector MRTFB, affecting the expression of a large number of EWS-FLI1-anticorrelated genes including structural and regulatory cytoskeletal genes. Consistent with this finding, chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq) revealed strong overlaps in myocardin-related transcription factor B (MRTFB) and EWS-FLI1 chromatin occupation, especially for EWS-FLI1-anticorrelated genes. Binding of the transcriptional co-activator Yes-associated protein (YAP)-1, enrichment of TEAD-binding motifs in these shared genomic binding regions and overlapping transcriptional footprints of MRTFB and TEAD factors led us to propose synergy between MRTFB and the YAP/TEAD complex in the regulation of EWS-FLI1-anticorrelated genes. We propose that EWS-FLI1 suppresses the Rho-actin pathway by perturbation of a MRTFB/YAP-1/TEAD transcriptional module, which directly affects the actin-autoregulatory feedback loop. As spontaneous fluctuations in EWS-FLI1 levels of Ewing sarcoma cells in vitro and in vivo, associated with a switch between a proliferative, non-migratory EWS-FLI1-high and a non-proliferative highly migratory EWS-FLI1-low state, were recently described, our data provide a mechanistic basis for the underlying EWS-FLI1-dependent reversible cytoskeletal reprogramming of Ewing sarcoma cells.

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