Systems biology analysis identifies TCF7L1 as a key regulator of metastasis in Ewing sarcoma
Tilman L. B. Hölting,
Martin F. Orth,
Martha Julia Carreño-Gonzalez,
Cornelius M. Funk,
Maximilian M. L. Knott,
Thomas G. P. Grünewald
Posted 25 Feb 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.02.25.432862
Posted 25 Feb 2021
Identification of cancer stemness genes is crucial to understanding the underlying biology of therapy resistance, relapse, and metastasis. Ewing sarcoma (EwS) is the second most common bone tumor in children and adolescents. It is a highly aggressive cancer associated with a dismal survival rate (<30%) for patients with metastatic disease at diagnosis ([~]25% of cases). Hence, deciphering the underlying mechanisms of metastasis is imperative. EwS tumors are characterized by a remarkably silent genome with a single driver mutation generating an oncogenic fusion transcription factor (EWSR1-ETS). Thus, EwS constitutes an ideal model to study how perturbation of a transcriptional network by a dominant oncogene can mediate metastasis, even though canonical metastasis-associated genes are not mutated. Here, through the implementation of an integrative systems biology approach, we identified transcription factor 7 like 1 (TCF7L1, alias TCF3) as a prognostically-relevant and EWSR1-ETS suppressed determinant of metastasis in EwS. We demonstrated that conditional TCF7L1 re-expression significantly reduces EwS single-cell migration, invasion and anchorage-independent growth in 3D assays in vitro, and tumorigenesis in vivo mediated by its DNA binding domain. In primary EwS tumors as well as in functional orthotopic in vivo models, low TCF7L1 expression was associated with pro-metastatic gene signatures and a much higher migratory and metastatic capacity of EwS cells, which correlated with poor outcome of EwS patients. Collectively, our findings establish TCF7L1 as a major regulator of metastasis in EwS, which may be utilized as a prognostic biomarker and open inroads to future therapeutic intervention.
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