TAZ-CAMTA1 and YAP-TFE3 alter the TAZ/YAP transcriptome by recruiting the ATAC histone acetyltransferase complex

Elife. 2021 Apr 29:10:e62857. doi: 10.7554/eLife.62857.


Epithelioid hemangioendothelioma (EHE) is a vascular sarcoma that metastasizes early in its clinical course and lacks an effective medical therapy. The TAZ-CAMTA1 and YAP-TFE3 fusion proteins are chimeric transcription factors and initiating oncogenic drivers of EHE. A combined proteomic/genetic screen in human cell lines identified YEATS2 and ZZZ3, components of the Ada2a-containing histone acetyltransferase (ATAC) complex, as key interactors of both fusion proteins despite the dissimilarity of the C terminal fusion partners CAMTA1 and TFE3. Integrative next-generation sequencing approaches in human and murine cell lines showed that the fusion proteins drive a unique transcriptome by simultaneously hyperactivating a TEAD-based transcriptional program and modulating the chromatin environment via interaction with the ATAC complex. Interaction of the ATAC complex with both fusion proteins indicates that it is a key oncogenic driver and unifying enzymatic therapeutic target for this sarcoma. This study presents an approach to mechanistically dissect how chimeric transcription factors drive the formation of human cancers.

Keywords: ATAC complex; cancer biology; chimeric transcription factors; chromosomes; epigenetics; fusion proteins; gene expression; hippo pathway; human; mouse; sarcomas.

Plain language summary

The proliferation of human cells is tightly regulated to ensure that enough cells are made to build and repair organs and tissues, while at the same time stopping cells from dividing uncontrollably and damaging the body. To get the right balance, cells rely on physical and chemical cues from their environment that trigger the biochemical signals that regulate two proteins called TAZ and YAP. These proteins control gene activity by regulating the rate at which genes are copied to produce proteins. If this process becomes dysregulated, cells can grow uncontrollably, causing cancer. In cancer cells, it is common to find TAZ and YAP fused to other proteins. In epithelioid hemangioendothelioma, a rare cancer that grows in the blood vessels, cancerous growth can be driven by a version of TAZ fused to the protein CAMTA1, or a version of YAP fused to the protein TFE3. While the role of TAZ and YAP in promoting gene activity is known, it is unclear how CAMTA1 and TFE3 contribute to cell growth becoming dysregulated. Merritt, Garcia et al. studied sarcoma cell lines to show that these two fusion proteins, TAZ-CAMTA1 and YAP-TFE3, change the pattern of gene activity seen in the cells compared to TAZ or YAP alone. An analysis of molecules that interact with the two fusion proteins identified a complex called ATAC as the cause of these changes. This complex adds chemical markers to DNA-packaging proteins, which control which genes are available for activation. The fusion proteins combine the ability of TAZ and YAP to control gene activity and the ability of CAMTA1 and TFE3 to make DNA more accessible, allowing the fusion proteins to drive uncontrolled cancerous growth. Similar TAZ and YAP fusion proteins have been found in other cancers, which can activate genes and potentially alter DNA packaging. Targeting drug development efforts at the proteins that complex with TAZ and YAP fusion proteins may lead to new therapies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / metabolism*
  • Hemangioendothelioma, Epithelioid / genetics
  • Hemangioendothelioma, Epithelioid / metabolism*
  • Histone Acetyltransferases / genetics
  • Histone Acetyltransferases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Protein Binding
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Transcriptional Coactivator with PDZ-Binding Motif Proteins
  • Transcriptome


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Leucine Zipper Transcription Factors
  • CAMTA1 protein, human
  • Calcium-Binding Proteins
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • TFE3 protein, human
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transcription Factors
  • Transcriptional Coactivator with PDZ-Binding Motif Proteins
  • WWTR1 protein, human
  • YY1AP1 protein, human
  • Histone Acetyltransferases

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE152736
  • GEO/GSE152737
  • GEO/GSE152778
  • GEO/GSE152733
  • GEO/GSE168201
  • GEO/GSE168205