MYC transcription activation mediated by OCT4 as a mechanism of resistance to 13-cisRA-mediated differentiation in neuroblastoma

Cell Death Dis. 2020 May 14;11(5):368. doi: 10.1038/s41419-020-2563-4.

Abstract

Despite the improvement in clinical outcome with 13-cis-retinoic acid (13-cisRA) + anti-GD2 antibody + cytokine immunotherapy given in first response ~40% of high-risk neuroblastoma patients die of recurrent disease. MYCN genomic amplification is a biomarker of aggressive tumors in the childhood cancer neuroblastoma. MYCN expression is downregulated by 13-cisRA, a differentiating agent that is a component of neuroblastoma therapy. Although MYC amplification is rare in neuroblastoma at diagnosis, we report transcriptional activation of MYC medicated by the transcription factor OCT4, functionally replacing MYCN in 13-cisRA-resistant progressive disease neuroblastoma in large panels of patient-derived cell lines and xenograft models. We identified novel OCT4-binding sites in the MYC promoter/enhancer region that regulated MYC expression via phosphorylation by MAPKAPK2 (MK2). OCT4 phosphorylation at the S111 residue by MK2 was upstream of MYC transcriptional activation. Expression of OCT4, MK2, and c-MYC was higher in progressive disease relative to pre-therapy neuroblastomas and was associated with inferior patient survival. OCT4 or MK2 knockdown decreased c-MYC expression and restored the sensitivity to 13-cisRA. In conclusion, we demonstrated that high c-MYC expression independent of genomic amplification is associated with disease progression in neuroblastoma. MK2-mediated OCT4 transcriptional activation is a novel mechanism for activating the MYC oncogene in progressive disease neuroblastoma that provides a therapeutic target.

Publication types

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