Dissecting the function and targets of FOXG1 in glioblastoma
Bulstrode, Harry John Christopher
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Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common intrinsic primary brain tumour. It is uniformly fatal, with median survival approximately 14 months. These tumours comprise a mixture of neural stem cell-like cells and more differentiated astrocytic cells. The former are thought to be responsible for tumour development and recurrence, and display self-renewal and differentiation capacity in vitro. Glioma stem cells (GSCs) are defined operationally by their capacity to initiate tumours on orthotopic transplant into immunocompromised mice. The Pollard lab has identified the neural developmental transcription factor Forkhead Box G1 (FOXG1) as the most consistently overexpressed gene in GBM-derived neural stem (GNS) cells compared to their genetically normal neural stem (NS) cell counterparts. Here we explore the function and critical downstream effectors of FOXG1 in NS and GNS cells. We find that, although FOXG1 is not essential for sustaining proliferation of NS or GNS cells (in vitro), high FOXG1 restricts astrocyte differentiation in response to BMP and can drive dedifferentiation of postmitotic astrocytes. We identify a potential cooperation with SOX2. ChIP-Seq and RNA-Seq were used to define transcriptional targets. FOXG1 directly controls critical cell cycle regulators FOXO3 and FOXO6 (two forkhead family proteins), as well as the proto-oncogene MYCN and key regulators of both DNA and chromatin methylation, including TET3 and CHD3. Pharmacological inhibitors of MYC block FOXG1-driven de-differentiation, whereas Vitamin C and 5-azacytidine – agents that disrupt DNA and chromatin methylation – can facilitate de-differentiation. CRISPR/Cas genome editing was used to genetically ablate the cell cycle inhibitor FOXO3, or remove the FOXG1-bound cis-regulatory region. These data suggest direct transcriptional repression of FOXO3 by FOXG1 may drive cells into cycle. We conclude that high levels of FOXG1 in GBM limit astrocyte differentiation commitment by direct transcriptional control of core cell cycle regulators and DNA/histone methylation.