Hedgehog signaling drives oncogenesis in several cancers, and strategies targeting this pathway have been developed, most notably through inhibition of Smoothened (SMO). However, resistance to Smoothened inhibitors occurs by genetic changes of Smoothened or other downstream Hedgehog components. Here we overcome these resistance mechanisms by modulating GLI transcription through inhibition of bromo and extra C-terminal (BET) bromodomain proteins. We show that BRD4 and other BET bromodomain proteins regulate GLI transcription downstream of SMO and suppressor of fused (SUFU), and chromatin immunoprecipitation studies reveal that BRD4 directly occupies GLI1 and GLI2 promoters, with a substantial decrease in engagement of these sites after treatment with JQ1, a small-molecule inhibitor targeting BRD4. Globally, genes associated with medulloblastoma- specific GLI1 binding sites are downregulated in response to JQ1 treatment, supporting direct regulation of GLI activity by BRD4. Notably, patient- and GEMM (genetically engineered mouse model)-derived Hedgehog-driven tumors (basal cell carcinoma, medulloblastoma and atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor) respond to JQ1 even when harboring genetic lesions rendering them resistant to Smoothened antagonists. Altogether, our results reveal BET proteins as critical regulators of Hedgehog pathway transcriptional output and nominate BET bromodomain inhibitors as a strategy for treating Hedgehog-driven tumors with emerged or a priori resistance to Smoothened antagonists.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology