Epigenetic alterations, particularly in DNA methylation, are ubiquitous in cancer, yet the molecular origins and the consequences of these alterations are poorly understood. CTCF, a DNA-binding protein that regulates higher-order chromatin organization, is frequently altered by hemizygous deletion or mutation in human cancer. To date, a causal role for CTCF in cancer has not been established. Here, we show that Ctcf hemizygous knockout mice are markedly susceptible to spontaneous, radiation-, and chemically induced cancer in a broad range of tissues. Ctcf(+/-) tumors are characterized by increased aggressiveness, including invasion, metastatic dissemination, and mixed epithelial/mesenchymal differentiation. Molecular analysis of Ctcf(+/-) tumors indicates that Ctcf is haploinsufficient for tumor suppression. Tissues with hemizygous loss of CTCF exhibit increased variability in CpG methylation genome wide. These findings establish CTCF as a prominent tumor-suppressor gene and point to CTCF-mediated epigenetic stability as a major barrier to neoplastic progression.
Copyright © 2014 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.