Self-renewal is a crucial property of glioblastoma cells that is enabled by the choreographed functions of chromatin regulators and transcription factors. Identifying targetable epigenetic mechanisms of self-renewal could therefore represent an important step toward developing effective treatments for this universally lethal cancer. Here we uncover an epigenetic axis of self-renewal mediated by the histone variant macroH2A2. With omics and functional assays deploying patient-derived in vitro and in vivo models, we show that macroH2A2 shapes chromatin accessibility at enhancer elements to antagonize transcriptional programs of self-renewal. macroH2A2 also sensitizes cells to small molecule-mediated cell death via activation of a viral mimicry response. Consistent with these results, our analyses of clinical cohorts indicate that high transcriptional levels of this histone variant are associated with better prognosis of high-grade glioma patients. Our results reveal a targetable epigenetic mechanism of self-renewal controlled by macroH2A2 and suggest additional treatment approaches for glioblastoma patients.
Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada.