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ATRX mutant neuroblastoma is sensitive to EZH2 inhibition via modulation of neuronal differentiation.

Mutations and structural alterations of the SWI/SNF-like chromatin remodeler ATRX have been reported at high frequency in a number of adult and pediatric tumors1. However, the consequences of ATRX (Alpha Thalassemia/Mental Retardation, X-linked) mutations in cancer and their underlying epigenetic sensitivities remain ill defined. Particularly intriguing are the large N-terminal deletions of ATRX in neuroblastoma that generate in-frame fusion (IFF) proteins1–3 devoid of key chromatin interaction domains. Here we demonstrate that neuroblastoma cells harbouring ATRX IFFs have distinct gene expression programs compared to neuroblastoma cells that are wild type for ATRX. This is due in part to H3K27me3-mediated silencing of REST (RE1 Silencing Transcription Factor) target genes involved in neuronal differentiation. In turn, we find that ATRX IFF cells display exquisite sensitivity to EZH2 inhibition in both adherent and tumorsphere conditions, due in part to derepression of neurogenesis genes, including REST targets. Examination of the epigenomic landscape of a pediatric neuroblastoma tumor harboring an ATRX IFF revealed that H3K27me3 occupies a subset of REST target genes that are transcriptionally silenced, and are sensitive to EZH2 inhibition in our cell-based assays. Thus, our study greatly advances our understanding of indolent neuroblastoma and identifies EZH2 inhibition as a potential therapy for patients with ATRX mutant disease. Further, these studies may be applicable to other ATRX mutant pediatric malignancies, particularly those carrying similar structural alterations of ATRX.

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Dataset ID Description Technology Samples
EGAD00001003389 Illumina HiSeq 2000 6
EGAD00010001278 Affymetrix 600K -
Publications Citations
ATRX In-Frame Fusion Neuroblastoma Is Sensitive to EZH2 Inhibition via Modulation of Neuronal Gene Signatures.
Cancer Cell 36: 2019 512-527.e9