Recombinant TRAIL and agonistic antibodies to death receptors (DRs) have been in clinical trial but displayed limited anti-cancer efficacy. Lack of functional DR expression in tumors is a major limiting factor. We report here that chromatin regulator KDM4A/JMJD2A, not KDM4B, has a pivotal role in silencing tumor cell expression of both TRAIL and its receptor DR5. In TRAIL-sensitive and -resistant cancer cells of lung, breast and prostate, KDM4A small-molecule inhibitor compound-4 (C-4) or gene silencing strongly induces TRAIL and DR5 expression, and causes TRAIL-dependent apoptotic cell death. KDM4A inhibition also strongly sensitizes cells to TRAIL. C-4 alone potently inhibits tumor growth with marked induction of TRAIL and DR5 expression in the treated tumors and effectively sensitizes them to the newly developed TRAIL-inducer ONC201. Mechanistically, C-4 does not appear to act through the Akt-ERK-FOXO3a pathway. Instead, it switches histone modifying enzyme complexes at promoters of TRAIL and DR5 transcriptional activator CHOP gene by dissociating KDM4A and nuclear receptor corepressor (NCoR)-HDAC complex and inducing the recruitment of histone acetylase CBP. Thus, our results reveal KDM4A as a key epigenetic silencer of TRAIL and DR5 in tumors and establish inhibitors of KDM4A as a novel strategy for effectively sensitizing tumors to TRAIL pathway-based therapeutics.
ASJC Scopus subject areas