Pathologic c-Myc expression is frequently detected in human cancers, including Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), an aggressive skin cancer with no cure for metastatic disease. Bromodomain protein 4 (BRD4) regulates gene transcription by binding to acetylated histone H3 lysine 27 (H3K27Ac) on the chromatin. Super-enhancers of transcription are identified by enrichment of H3K27Ac. BET inhibitor JQ1 disrupts BRD4 association with super-enhancers, downregulates proto-oncogenes, such as c-Myc, and displays antitumor activity in preclinical animal models of human cancers. Here we show that an enhancer proximal to the c-Myc promoter is enriched in H3K27Ac and associated with high occupancy of BRD4, and coincides with a putative c-Myc super-enhancer in MCC cells. This observation is mirrored in tumors from MCC patients. Importantly, depleted BRD4 occupancy at the putative c-Myc super-enhancer region by JQ1 correlates with decreased c-Myc expression. Thus, our study provides initial evidence that super-enhancers regulate c-Myc expression in MCC.
Keywords: BET inhibitor; BET, bromodomain and extra-terminal domain family; BRD, bromodomain; BRD4; ChIP, Chromatin immunoprecipitation; H3K27Ac; JQ1; MCC, Merkel cell carcinoma; Merkel cell carcinoma; qPCR, quantitative PCR; qRT-PCR, quantitative reverse transcription PCR; super-enhancer.