Epigenetic reprogramming has been associated with the functional plasticity of cancer-initiating cells (CICs); however, the regulatory pathway has yet to be elucidated. A siRNA screen targeting known epigenetic genes revealed that G9a profoundly impairs the chemo-resistance, self-renewal and metastasis of CICs obtained from patients with colorectal cancer (CRC). Patients with elevated G9a were shown to face a high risk of relapse and poor survival rates. From a mechanistic perspective, G9a binds with and stabilizes RelB, thereby recruiting DNA methyltransferase 3 on the Let-7b promoter and repressing its expression. This leads to the activation of the K-RAS/β-catenin pathway and regulates self-renewal and function of CICs. These findings indicate that the G9a/RelB/Let-7b axis acts as a critical regulator in the maintenance of CIC phenotypes and is strongly associated with negative clinical outcomes. Thus, these findings may have diagnostic as well as therapeutic implications for the treatment of chemotherapy-resistant or metastatic CRC.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology