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Combined treatment with CBP and BET inhibitors reverses inadvertent activation of detrimental super enhancer programs in DIPG cells

Diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPG) are the most aggressive brain tumors in children with 5-year survival rates of only 2%. About 85% of all DIPG are characterized by a lysine-to-methionine substitution in histone 3, which leads to global H3K27 hypomethylation accompanied by H3K27 hyperacetylation. Hyperacetylation in DIPG favors the action of the Bromodomain and Extra-Terminal (BET) protein BRD4, and leads to the reprogramming of the enhancer landscape contributing to the activation of DIPG super enhancer-driven oncogenes. The activity of the acetyltransferase CREB-binding protein (CBP) is enhanced by BRD4 and associated with acetylation of nucleosomes at super enhancers (SE). In addition, CBP contributes to transcriptional activation through its function as a scaffold and protein bridge. Monotherapy with either a CBP (ICG-001) or BET inhibitor (JQ1) led to the reduction of tumor-related characteristics. Interestingly, combined treatment induced strong cytotoxic effects in H3.3K27M-mutated DIPG cell lines. RNA sequencing and chromatin immunoprecipitation revealed that these effects were caused by the inactivation of DIPG SE-controlled tumor-related genes. However, single treatment with ICG-001 or JQ1, respectively, led to activation of a subgroup of detrimental super enhancers. Combinatorial treatment reversed the inadvertent activation of these super enhancers and rescued the effect of ICG-001 and JQ1 single treatment on enhancer-driven oncogenes in H3K27M-mutated DIPG, but not in H3 wild-type pedHGG cells. In conclusion, combinatorial treatment with CBP and BET inhibitors is highly efficient in H3K27M-mutant DIPG due to reversal of inadvertent activation of detrimental SE programs in comparison with monotherapy.

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