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Zhang H, Pandey S, Travers M, Sun H, Morton G, Madzo J, Chung W, Khowsathit J, Perez-Leal O, Barrero CA, Merali C, Okamoto Y, Sato T, Pan J, Garriga J, Bhanu NV, Simithy J, Patel B, Huang J, Raynal NJ, Garcia BA, Jacobson MA, Kadoch C, Merali S, Zhang Y, Childers W, Abou-Gharbia M, Karanicolas J, Baylin SB, Zahnow CA, Jelinek J, Grana X, Issa JJ
Targeting CDK9 Reactivates Epigenetically Silenced Genes in Cancer
Cell (2018) 175:1244-1258.e26.
Cyclin-dependent kinase 9 (CDK9) promotes transcriptional elongation through RNAPII pause release. We now report that CDK9 is also essential for maintaining gene silencing at heterochromatic loci. Through a live cell drug screen with genetic confirmation, we discovered that CDK9 inhibition reactivates epigenetically silenced genes in cancer, leading to restored tumor suppressor gene expression, cell differentiation, and activation of endogenous retrovirus genes. CDK9 inhibition dephosphorylates the SWI/SNF protein BRG1, which contributes to gene reactivation. By optimization through gene expression, we developed a highly selective CDK9 inhibitor (MC180295, IC50 = 5 nM) that has broad anti-cancer activity in vitro and is effective in in vivo cancer models. Additionally, CDK9 inhibition sensitizes to the immune checkpoint inhibitor alpha-PD-1 in vivo, making it an excellent target for epigenetic therapy of cancer.
Publication Date: 2018-11-15.
PMCID: PMC6247954
Last updated on Tuesday, August 04, 2020