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Targeting Super-Enhancer-Driven Oncogenic Transcription by CDK7 Inhibition in Anaplastic Thyroid Carcinoma

Xinyi Cao, Lin Dang, Xiangqian Zheng, Yi Lu, Yumei Lu, Rongjie Ji, Tianye Zhang, Xianhui Ruan, Jingtai Zhi, Xiukun Hou, Xianfu Yi, Mulin Jun Li, Tingyu Gu, Ming Gao, Lirong Zhang, Yupeng Chen
Thyroid: Official Journal of the American Thyroid Association 2019 May 3
Background: Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC) is one of the most aggressive malignancies, with no effective treatment currently available. The molecular mechanisms of ATC carcinogenesis remain poorly understood. The objective of this study was to investigate the mechanisms and functions of super-enhancer (SE)-driven oncogenic transcriptional addiction in the progression of ATC and identify new drug targets for ATC treatments. Methods: High-throughput chemical screening was performed to identify new drugs inhibiting ATC cell growth. Cell viability assay, colony formation analysis, cell-cycle analysis, and animal study were used to examine the effects of drug treatments on ATC progression. Chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing was conducted to establish a SE landscape of ATC. Integrative analysis of RNA sequencing, chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing, and CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing was used to identify THZ1 target genes. Drug combination analysis was performed to assess drug synergy. Patient samples were analyzed to evaluate candidate biomarkers of prognosis in ATC. Results: THZ1, a covalent inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinase 7 (CDK7), was identified as a potent anti-ATC compound by high-throughput chemical screening. ATC cells, but not papillary thyroid carcinoma cells, are exceptionally sensitive to CDK7 inhibition. An integrative analysis of both gene expression profiles and SE features revealed that the SE-mediated oncogenic transcriptional amplification mediates the vulnerability of ATC cells to THZ1 treatment. Combining this integrative analysis with functional assays led to the discovery of a number of novel cancer genes of ATC, including PPP1R15A , SMG9 , and KLF2 . Inhibition of PPP1R15A with Guanabenz or Sephin1 greatly suppresses ATC growth. Significantly, the expression level of PPP1R15A is correlated with CDK7 expression in ATC tissue samples. Elevated expression of PPP1R15A and CDK7 are both associated with poor clinical prognosis in ATC patients. Importantly, CDK7 or PPP1R15A inhibition sensitizes ATC cells to conventional chemotherapy. Conclusions: Taken together, these findings demonstrate transcriptional addiction in ATC pathobiology and identify CDK7 and PPP1R15A as potential biomarkers and therapeutic targets for ATC.


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