Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome Candidate 1 (whsc1) Functions as a Tumor Suppressor by Governing Cell Differentiation

Neoplasia. 2017 Aug;19(8):606-616. doi: 10.1016/j.neo.2017.05.001. Epub 2017 Jun 24.


Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome candidate 1 (WHSC1) is a histone 3 lysine 36 (H3K36) specific methyltransferase that is frequently deleted in Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome (WHS). Whsc1 is also found mutated in a subgroup of B-cell derived malignant diseases by genomic translocation or point mutation, both of which resulted in hyperactivity of WHSC1 mediated H3K36 methylation and uncontrolled cell proliferation, suggesting that whsc1 functions as an oncogene. However, here we provided evidences to show that whsc1 also has tumor suppressor functions. We used zebrafish as an in vivo model and generated homozygous whsc1 mutant lines via clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats-associated protein Cas9 (CRISPR/Cas9) technology. Then western-blot (WB) and immunofluorescence (IF) were performed to analysis the expression level of H3K36Me2 and H3K36Me3, and we identified the diseased tissue via hematoxylin-eosin (HE) staining, IF staining or immunohistochemistry (IHC). Whsc1 lose-of-function led to significant decrease in di- and tri-methylation of H3K36. A series of WHS related phenotypes were found in whsc1-/- zebrafish, including growth retardation, neural development defects and heart failure. In addition, loss of function of whsc1 led to defects in the development of swim bladder, possibly through the dis-regulation of key genes in swim bladder organogenesis and inhibition of progenitor cell differentiation, which was correlated with its expression in this organ during embryonic development. At later stage, these whsc1-/- zebrafishes are inclined to grow tumors in the swim bladder. Our work suggested that whsc1 may function as a tumor suppressor by governing progenitor cell differentiation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Embryonic Development / genetics
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Gene Order
  • Gene Targeting
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor*
  • Genetic Loci
  • Genotype
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase / genetics*
  • Mutation
  • Phenotype
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome / genetics
  • Zebrafish


  • Biomarkers
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Histone-Lysine N-Methyltransferase