YAP1 enhances NF-κB-dependent and independent effects on clock-mediated unfolded protein responses and autophagy in sarcoma

Cell Death Dis. 2018 Oct 31;9(11):1108. doi: 10.1038/s41419-018-1142-4.


Terminal differentiation opposes proliferation in the vast majority of tissue types. As a result, loss of lineage differentiation is a hallmark of aggressive cancers, including soft tissue sarcomas (STS). Consistent with these observations, undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma (UPS), an STS subtype devoid of lineage markers, is among the most lethal sarcomas in adults. Though tissue-specific features are lost in these mesenchymal tumors they are most commonly diagnosed in skeletal muscle, and are thought to develop from transformed muscle progenitor cells. We have found that a combination of HDAC (Vorinostat) and BET bromodomain (JQ1) inhibition partially restores differentiation to skeletal muscle UPS cells and tissues, enforcing a myoblast-like identity. Importantly, differentiation is partially contingent upon downregulation of the Hippo pathway transcriptional effector Yes-associated protein 1 (YAP1) and nuclear factor (NF)-κB. Previously, we observed that Vorinostat/JQ1 inactivates YAP1 and restores oscillation of NF-κB in differentiating myoblasts. These effects correlate with reduced tumorigenesis, and enhanced differentiation. However, the mechanisms by which the Hippo/NF-κB axis impact differentiation remained unknown. Here, we report that YAP1 and NF-κB activity suppress circadian clock function, inhibiting differentiation and promoting proliferation. In most tissues, clock activation is antagonized by the unfolded protein response (UPR). However, skeletal muscle differentiation requires both Clock and UPR activity, suggesting the molecular link between them is unique in muscle. In skeletal muscle-derived UPS, we observed that YAP1 suppresses PERK and ATF6-mediated UPR target expression as well as clock genes. These pathways govern metabolic processes, including autophagy, and their disruption shifts metabolism toward cancer cell-associated glycolysis and hyper-proliferation. Treatment with Vorinostat/JQ1 inhibited glycolysis/MTOR signaling, activated the clock, and upregulated the UPR and autophagy via inhibition of YAP1/NF-κB. These findings support the use of epigenetic modulators to treat human UPS. In addition, we identify specific autophagy, UPR, and muscle differentiation-associated genes as potential biomarkers of treatment efficacy and differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activating Transcription Factor 6 / genetics
  • Activating Transcription Factor 6 / metabolism
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / genetics*
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Autophagy / drug effects
  • Autophagy / genetics*
  • Azepines / pharmacology
  • CLOCK Proteins / genetics
  • CLOCK Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology
  • Circadian Clocks / drug effects
  • Circadian Clocks / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Muscle Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Muscle Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Muscle Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Muscle Neoplasms / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology
  • Myoblasts / drug effects
  • Myoblasts / metabolism
  • Myoblasts / pathology
  • NF-kappa B / genetics*
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Sarcoma / drug therapy
  • Sarcoma / genetics*
  • Sarcoma / metabolism
  • Sarcoma / pathology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / pathology
  • Triazoles / pharmacology
  • Unfolded Protein Response / drug effects
  • Vorinostat / pharmacology
  • eIF-2 Kinase / genetics
  • eIF-2 Kinase / metabolism


  • (+)-JQ1 compound
  • Activating Transcription Factor 6
  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Atf6 protein, mouse
  • Azepines
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • NF-kappa B
  • Triazoles
  • Yap protein, mouse
  • Vorinostat
  • CLOCK Proteins
  • PERK kinase
  • eIF-2 Kinase