Epigenetic regulation of cancer progression by EZH2: from biological insights to therapeutic potential

Biomark Res. 2018 Mar 9;6:10. doi: 10.1186/s40364-018-0122-2. eCollection 2018.


Enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2), a histone methyltransferase and a catalytic component of PRC2, catalyzes tri-methylation of histone H3 at Lys 27 (H3K27me3) to regulate gene expression through epigenetic machinery. EZH2 also functions both as a transcriptional suppressor and a transcriptional co-activator, depending on H3K27me3 or not and on the different cellular contexts. Unsurprisingly, numerous studies have highlighted the role of EZH2 in cancer development and progression. Through modulating critical gene expression, EZH2 promotes cell survival, proliferation, epithelial to mesenchymal, invasion, and drug resistance of cancer cells. The tumor suppressive effects of EZH2 are also identified. What is more, EZH2 has decisive roles in immune cells (for example, T cells, NK cells, dendritic cells and macrophages), which are essential components in tumor microenvironment. In this review, we aim to discuss the molecular functions of EZH2, highlight recent findings regarding the physiological functions and related regulation of EZH2 in cancer pathogenesis. Furthermore, we summarized and updated the emerging roles of EZH2 in tumor immunity, and current pre-clinical and clinical trials of EZH2 inhibitors in cancer therapy.

Keywords: Cancer; EZH2; Epigenetic; Histone H3 Lys27 trimethylation; Polycomb repressive complex.

Publication types

  • Review