Background: Alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS) has a high propensity to metastasize, leading to its aggressiveness and a poor survival rate among those with the disease. More than 80% of aggressive ARMSs harbor a PAX3-FKHR fusion transcription factor, which regulates cell migration and promotes metastasis, most likely by regulating the fusion protein's transcriptional targets. Therefore, identifying druggable transcription targets of PAX3-FKHR that are also downstream effectors of PAX3-FKHR-mediated cell migration and metastasis may lead to novel therapeutic approaches for treating ARMS.
Methods: To identify genes whose expression is directly affected by the level of PAX3-FKHR in an ARMS cellular-context, we first developed an ARMS cell line in which PAX3-FKHR is stably down-regulated, and showed that stably downregulating PAX3-FKHR in ARMS cells significantly decreased the cells' motility. We used microarray analysis to identify genes whose expression level decreased when PAX3-FKHR was downregulated. We used mutational analysis, promoter reporter assays, and electrophoretic mobility shift assays to determine whether PAX3-FKHR binds to the promoter region of the target gene. We used siRNA and pharmacologic inhibitor to downregulate the target gene of PAX3-FKHR and investigated the effect of such downregulation on cell motility.
Results: We found that when PAX3-FKHR was downregulated, the expression of carnitine palmitoyltransferase 1A (CPT1A) decreased. We showed that PAX3-FKHR binds to a paired-domain binding-site in the CPT1A promoter region, indicating that CPT1A is a novel transcriptional target of PAX3-FKHR. Furthermore, downregulating CPT1A decreased cell motility in ARMS cells, indicating that CPT1A is a downstream effector of PAX3-FKHR-mediated cell migration and metastasis.
Conclusions: Taken together, we have identified CPT1A as a novel transcriptional target of PAX3-FKHR and revealed the novel function of CPT1A in promoting cell motility. CPT1A may represent a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of ARMS.