Research Papers:

PI3K/AKT signaling modulates transcriptional expression of EWS/FLI1 through specificity protein 1

Chiara Giorgi, Aleksandar Boro, Florian Rechfeld, Laura A. Lopez-Garcia, Maria E. Gierisch, Beat W. Schäfer _ and Felix K. Niggli

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:28895-28910. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.5000

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Chiara Giorgi1, Aleksandar Boro1, Florian Rechfeld1, Laura A. Lopez-Garcia1, Maria E. Gierisch1, Beat W. Schäfer1, Felix K. Niggli1

1Department of Oncology and Children's Research Center, University Children's Hospital, 8032 Zurich, Switzerland

Correspondence to:

Beat W. Schäfer, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: Ewing sarcoma, EWS/FLI1, PI3K pathway, promoter analysis

Received: March 19, 2015     Accepted: August 12, 2015     Published: August 22, 2015


Ewing sarcoma (ES) is the second most frequent bone cancer in childhood and is characterized by the presence of the balanced translocation t(11;22)(q24;q12) in more than 85% of cases, generating a dysregulated transcription factor EWS/FLI1. This fusion protein is an essential oncogenic component of ES development which is necessary for tumor cell maintenance and represents an attractive therapeutic target. To search for modulators of EWS/FLI1 activity we screened a library of 153 targeted compounds and identified inhibitors of the PI3K pathway to directly modulate EWS/FLI1 transcription. Surprisingly, treatment of four different ES cell lines with BEZ235 resulted in down regulation of EWS/FLI1 mRNA and protein by ~50% with subsequent modulation of target gene expression. Analysis of the EWS/FLI1 promoter region (−2239/+67) using various deletion constructs identified two 14bp minimal elements as being important for EWS/FLI1 transcription. We identified SP1 as modulator of EWS/FLI1 gene expression and demonstrated direct binding to one of these regions in the EWS/FLI1 promoter by EMSA and ChIP experiments. These results provide the first insights on the transcriptional regulation of EWS/FLI1, an area that has not been investigated so far, and offer an additional molecular explanation for the known sensitivity of ES cell lines to PI3K inhibition.

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