Both gene repressor (Polycomb-dependent) and activator (Polycomb-independent) functions of the Polycomb protein enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) are implicated in cancer progression. EZH2 protein can be phosphorylated at various residues, such as threonine 487 (T487), by CDK1 kinase, and such phosphorylation acts as a Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2) suppression "code" to mediate the gene repressor-to-activator switch of EZH2 functions. Here we demonstrate that the histone reader protein ZMYND8 is overexpressed in human clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC). ZMYND8 binds to EZH2, and their interaction is largely enhanced by CDK1 phosphorylation of EZH2 at T487. ZMYND8 depletion not only enhances Polycomb-dependent function of EZH2 in hypoxia-exposed breast cancer cells or von Hippel-Lindau (VHL)-deficient ccRCC cells, but also suppresses the FOXM1 transcription program. We further show that ZMYND8 is required for EZH2-FOXM1 interaction and is important for FOXM1-dependent matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) gene expression and EZH2-mediated migration and invasion of VHL-deficient ccRCC cells. Our results identify a previously uncharacterized role of the chromatin reader ZMYND8 in recognizing the PRC2-inhibitory phosphorylation "code" essential for the Polycomb-dependent to -independent switch of EZH2 functions. They also reveal an oncogenic pathway driving cell migration and invasion in hypoxia-inducible factor-activated (hypoxia or VHL-deficient) cancer.
Keywords: EZH2; PRC2; ZMYND8; cancer; hypoxia.
Copyright © 2021 the Author(s). Published by PNAS.