Elevating SOX2 Downregulates MYC through a SOX2:MYC Signaling Axis and Induces a Slowly Cycling Proliferative State in Human Tumor Cells

Ethan P. Metz, Phillip J. Wilder, Tessa M. Popay, Jing Wang, Qi Liu, Achyuth Kalluchi, M. Jordan Rowley, William P. Tansey, Angie Rizzino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Slowly cycling/infrequently proliferating tumor cells present a clinical challenge due to their ability to evade treatment. Previous studies established that high levels of SOX2 in both fetal and tumor cells restrict cell proliferation and induce a slowly cycling state. However, the mechanisms through which elevated SOX2 levels inhibit tumor cell proliferation have not been identified. To identify common mechanisms through which SOX2 elevation restricts tumor cell proliferation, we initially performed RNA-seq using two diverse tumor cell types. SOX2 elevation in both cell types downregulated MYC target genes. Consistent with these findings, elevating SOX2 in five cell lines representing three different human cancer types decreased MYC expression. Importantly, the expression of a dominant-negative MYC variant, omomyc, recapitulated many of the effects of SOX2 on proliferation, cell cycle, gene expression, and biosynthetic activity. We also demonstrated that rescuing MYC activity in the context of elevated SOX2 induces cell death, indicating that the downregulation of MYC is a critical mechanistic step necessary to maintain survival in the slowly cycling state induced by elevated SOX2. Altogether, our findings uncover a novel SOX2:MYC signaling axis and provide important insights into the molecular mechanisms through which SOX2 elevation induces a slowly cycling proliferative state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1946
JournalCancers
Volume14
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2022

Keywords

  • colorectal cancer
  • medulloblastoma
  • MYC (c-MYC)
  • prostate cancer
  • SOX2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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