The Nucleosome Remodeling and Deacetylase (NURD) complex is a key regulator of cell differentiation that has also been implicated in tumorigenesis. Loss of the NURD subunit Deleted in Oral Cancer 1 (DOC1) is associated with human oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCCs). Here, we show that restoration of DOC1 expression in OSCC cells leads to a reversal of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). This is caused by the DOC1-dependent targeting of NURD to repress key transcriptional regulators of EMT. NURD recruitment drives extensive epigenetic reprogramming, including eviction of the SWI/SNF remodeler, formation of inaccessible chromatin, H3K27 deacetylation, and binding of PRC2 and KDM1A, followed by H3K27 methylation and H3K4 demethylation. Strikingly, depletion of SWI/SNF mimics the effects of DOC1 re-expression. Our results suggest that SWI/SNF and NURD function antagonistically to control chromatin state and transcription. We propose that disturbance of this dynamic equilibrium may lead to defects in gene expression that promote oncogenesis.
Keywords: CHD4; DOC1/CDK2AP1; NURD; Polycomb; SWI/SNF; chromatin; epigenetics; epithelial-mesenchymal transition; oral cancer.
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