Loss-of-function mutations in SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling subunit genes are observed in many cancers, but an oncogenic role for SWI/SNF is not well established. Here, we reveal that ACTL6A, encoding an SWI/SNF subunit linked to stem cell and progenitor cell function, is frequently co-amplified and highly expressed together with the p53 family member p63 in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). ACTL6A and p63 physically interact, cooperatively controlling a transcriptional program that promotes proliferation and suppresses differentiation, in part through activation of the Hippo-YAP pathway via regulators including WWC1. Ectopic ACTL6A/p63 expression promotes tumorigenesis, while ACTL6A expression and YAP activation are highly correlated in primary HNSCC and predict poor patient survival. Thus, ACTL6A and p63 collaborate as oncogenic drivers in HNSCC.
Keywords: ACTL6A; HNSCC; SWI/SNF (BAF) complex; YAP1; chromatin remodeling; hippo pathway; p63; squamous cell carcinoma.
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