SIX1 reprograms myogenic transcription factors to maintain the rhabdomyosarcoma undifferentiated state

Cell Rep. 2022 Feb 1;38(5):110323. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2022.110323.


Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a pediatric muscle sarcoma characterized by expression of the myogenic lineage transcription factors (TFs) MYOD1 and MYOG. Despite high expression of these TFs, RMS cells fail to terminally differentiate, suggesting the presence of factors that alter their functions. Here, we demonstrate that the developmental TF SIX1 is highly expressed in RMS and critical for maintaining a muscle progenitor-like state. SIX1 loss induces differentiation of RMS cells into myotube-like cells and impedes tumor growth in vivo. We show that SIX1 maintains the RMS undifferentiated state by controlling enhancer activity and MYOD1 occupancy at loci more permissive to tumor growth over muscle differentiation. Finally, we demonstrate that a gene signature derived from SIX1 loss correlates with differentiation status and predicts RMS progression in human disease. Our findings demonstrate a master regulatory role of SIX1 in repression of RMS differentiation via genome-wide alterations in MYOD1 and MYOG-mediated transcription.

Keywords: CUT&RUN; MYOD1; SIX1; chromatin; mouse xenograft; muscle differentiation; muscle progenitor; rhabdomyosarcoma; transcriptional control; zebrafish.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Muscle Development / genetics*
  • Muscle Development / physiology
  • MyoD Protein / metabolism
  • Myogenin / metabolism
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion / metabolism
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma / genetics*
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma / metabolism
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma, Embryonal
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Zebrafish
  • Zebrafish Proteins / metabolism*


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • MyoD Protein
  • Myogenin
  • Oncogene Proteins, Fusion
  • Six1 protein, mouse
  • Six1 protein, zebrafish
  • Transcription Factors
  • Zebrafish Proteins