Aberrant activation of histone methyltransferase EZH2 and ribosome synthesis strongly associate with cancer development and progression. We previously found that EZH2 regulates RNA polymerase III-transcribed 5S ribosomal RNA gene transcription. However, whether EZH2 regulates ribosome synthesis is still unknown. Here, we report that EZH2 promotes ribosome synthesis by targeting and silencing a long noncoding RNA PHACTR2-AS1. PHACTR2-AS1 directly bound ribosome DNA genes and recruited histone methyltransferase SUV39H1, which in turn triggered H3K9 methylation of these genes. Depletion of PHACTR2-AS1 resulted in hyperactivation of ribosome synthesis and instability of ribosomal DNA, which promoted cancer cell proliferation and metastasis. Administration of PHACTR2-AS1-30nt-RNA, which binds to SUV39H1, effectively inhibited breast cancer growth and lung metastasis in mice. PHACTR2-AS1 was downregulated in breast cancer patients, where lower PHACTR2-AS1 expression promoted breast cancer development and correlated with poor patient outcome. Taken together, we demonstrate that PHACTR2-AS1 maintains a H3K9 methylation-marked silent state of ribosomal DNA genes, comprising a regulatory axis that controls breast cancer growth and metastasis. SIGNIFICANCE: These findings reveal that EZH2 mediates ribosomal DNA stability via silencing of PHACTR2-AS1, representing a potential therapeutic target to control breast cancer growth and metastasis.
©2020 American Association for Cancer Research.