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Genome Res. 2014 May;24(5):751-60. doi: 10.1101/gr.166231.113. Epub 2014 Jan 17.

Enhancer-targeted genome editing selectively blocks innate resistance to oncokinase inhibition.

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The Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Healthcare System, Palo Alto, California 94304, USA; The Program in Epithelial Biology, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


Thousands of putative enhancers are characterized in the human genome, yet few have been shown to have a functional role in cancer progression. Inhibiting oncokinases, such as EGFR, ALK, ERBB2, and BRAF, is a mainstay of current cancer therapy but is hindered by innate drug resistance mediated by up-regulation of the HGF receptor, MET. The mechanisms mediating such genomic responses to targeted therapy are unknown. Here, we identify lineage-specific enhancers at the MET locus for multiple common tumor types, including a melanoma lineage-specific enhancer 63 kb downstream from the MET TSS. This enhancer displays inducible chromatin looping with the MET promoter to up-regulate MET expression upon BRAF inhibition. Epigenomic analysis demonstrated that the melanocyte-specific transcription factor, MITF, mediates this enhancer function. Targeted genomic deletion (<7 bp) of the MITF motif within the MET enhancer suppressed inducible chromatin looping and innate drug resistance, while maintaining MITF-dependent, inhibitor-induced melanoma cell differentiation. Epigenomic analysis can thus guide functional disruption of regulatory DNA to decouple pro- and anti-oncogenic functions of a dominant transcription factor and block innate resistance to oncokinase therapy.

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