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posted on 27.04.2020 by Aktan Alpsoy

In eukaryotic systems, the genetic material of the cell –DNA– is packed into a protein-dense structure called chromatin. Chromatin structure is critical for preservation of the genetic material as well as coordination of vital processes such as DNA replication, transcription and DNA damage repair. The fundamental repeating unit of chromatin is nucleosome which is composed of an octamer of small alkaline proteins called histones and the DNA wrapped around this octamer. The nucleosomes are then packed into higher-order structures leading to formation of 3D chromatin architecture. The chromatin is a dynamic structure; the spacing between nucleosomes, or the folding of the larger chromatin segments is subjected to alterations during embryonic development, tissue specifications or simply during any event that require gene expression changes. Failure in proper regulation of chromatin structure has been associated with embryonic defects and disease such as cancer.

This work has focused on a class of ATP-dependent chromatin remodeling complexes known as switch/sucrose-non-fermentable (SWI/SNF) or BRG-associated factors (BAF) complex. This family of complexes act on chromatin and alter its physical structure by mobilizing histones or nucleosome particles through the activity of its ATPase –BRG1 or BRM, enabling more accessible DNA for the other factors such as transcription factors to localize and recruit transcription machinery. In particular, we discovered and biochemically defined a novel version of this family of chromatin complexes that we named as GLTSCR1/1L-BAF (GBAF). GLTSCR1 and GLTSCR1L are two uncharacterized paralogous proteins that have been identified as BRG1-interacting proteins. Biochemically surveying the essence of this interaction, we realized that these proteins incorporates into a previously unknown SWI/SNF family complex that lacks well-characterized SWI/SNF subunits such as ARID1/2, BAF170, BAF47; instead, uniquely comprise GLTSCR1/1L and bromodomain-containing protein BRD9. Focusing on the GLTSCR1 subunit, we observed that its absence is well-tolerated by many different cell types except slight growth retardation by prostate cancer cells. Expanding the cohort of prostate cancer cells, we realized that not the paralogous subunits GLTSCR1 or GLTSCR1L but unique and non-redundant subunit BRD9 is the major GBAF-dependence in prostate cancer cells. We observed that especially the androgen-receptor positive cell lines have severe growth defects upon BRD9 knockdown or inhibition. In vivo, we showed that xenografts with BRD9 knockdown prostate cancer cells (LNCaP) have smaller tumor size. We demonstrated that BRD9 inhibition can block the expression of androgen-receptor targets. Similarly, BRD9 knockdown and treatment with antiandrogen drug (enzalutamide) has overlapping transcriptional effects. Mechanistically, we showed that BRD9 interacts with AR and it colocalizes with AR in subset of AR -binding sites. Surprisingly, we realized that BRD9 depletion has similar transcriptional and phenotypic effects as BET protein inhibitors. BET protein family contains 4 bromodomain containing proteins (BRD2, BRD3, BRD4, BRDT). These proteins were previously shown to be critical for AR-dependent gene expression. We detected interaction between BRD9 and BRD2/4. We demonstrated that BRD4 and BRD9 had shared binding sites on genome, a fraction of which are co-bound by AR. At particular target sites we showed that BRD9 localization is dependent on BET proteins, but not the other way around. Taking together, we provided some evidences that GBAF targeting through BRD9 can be a novel therapeutic approach for prostate cancer. Growing body of reports suggested that current therapy options targeting the androgen receptor is failing due to acquired resistance. Therefore, targeting the AR pathways via its coregulators such as BET proteins or SWI/SNF complexes can serve as potent alternative approaches. Further research is needed to elucidate the roles of GBAF and BET proteins in androgen receptor independent prostate cancer cells, which are still responsive to GBAF or BET manipulations although to a lesser extent.


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Medicinal Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Emily Dykhuizen

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Andrea Kasinski

Additional Committee Member 2

Elizabeth Tran

Additional Committee Member 3

Michael Wendt



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