The Journal of biological chemistry

Transcriptional repression of tumor suppressor CDC73, encoding an RNA polymerase II interactor, by Wilms tumor 1 protein (WT1) promotes cell proliferation: implication for cancer therapeutics.

PMID 24257751


The Wilms tumor 1 gene (WT1) can either repress or induce the expression of genes. Inconsistent with its tumor suppressor role, elevated WT1 levels have been observed in leukemia and solid tumors. WT1 has also been suggested to act as an oncogene by inducing the expression of MYC and BCL-2. However, these are only the correlational studies, and no functional study has been performed to date. Consistent with its tumor suppressor role, CDC73 binds to RNA polymerase II as part of a PAF1 transcriptional regulatory complex and causes transcriptional repression of oncogenes MYC and CCND1. It also represses β-catenin-mediated transcription. Based on the reduced level of CDC73 in oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) samples in the absence of loss-of-heterozygosity, promoter methylation, and mutations, we speculated that an inhibitory transcription factor is regulating its expression. The bioinformatics analysis predicted WT1 as an inhibitory transcription factor to regulate the CDC73 level. Our results showed that overexpression of WT1 decreased CDC73 levels and promoted proliferation of OSCC cells. ChIP and EMSA results demonstrated binding of WT1 to the CDC73 promoter. The 5-azacytidine treatment of OSCC cells led to an up-regulation of WT1 with a concomitant down-regulation of CDC73, further suggesting regulation of CDC73 by WT1. Exogenous CDC73 attenuated the protumorigenic activity of WT1 by apoptosis induction. An inverse correlation between expression levels of CDC73 and WT1 was observed in OSCC samples. These observations indicated that WT1 functions as an oncogene by repressing the expression of CDC73 in OSCC. We suggest that targeting WT1 could be a therapeutic strategy for cancer, including OSCC.