Glioma is the most common primary brain tumor and represents a disproportionate percentage of cancer fatalities in relation to its incidence. In the last decade, it has been discovered that nearly all lower grade gliomas harbor a characteristic gain of function mutation in Isocitrate dehydrogenase I (IDH1) allowing the enzyme to form a novel oncometabolite. These lower grade gliomas invariably progress to high-grade, aggressive glioblastoma. At neither the low-grade nor high-grade stage are directed therapies available and current treatment is limited to surgical resection and adjuvant radiation and alkylating chemotherapeutic agents. Recent efforts have attempted to employ inhibitors of mutant IDH1 to treat these tumors but early evidence is mixed, indicating that mutant IDH1 induces long-lasting epigenetic changes that do not dissipate upon inhibition of the oncometabolite?s production. Studying these tumors has proven difficult compared to IDH wildtype glioma as patient tumors cannot be readily grown in culture. To address this, our group generated a model of low-grade glioma in human neural stem cells (NSCs) which are strongly implicated as the cell of origin for these tumors. This model, referred to as 3- Hit NSCs, reaffirmed previous observations that the IDH1 mutant induces a block to neural precursor differentiation. Strikingly, it revealed that this block to differentiation in NSCs can be completely rescued by restoration of expression of the transcription factor (sex determining region Y)-box 2 (SOX2). Moreover, this reduction of expression and the associated differentiation phenotype occurs secondary to profound changes in 3-dimensional chromatin organization around the SOX2 genomic locus. The proposed work in this fellowship will examine how central these changes in chromatin organization are to the glioma-phenotype in NSCs and will characterize the SOX2 enhancer environment in NSCs to understand its regulation in glioma initiation. Preliminary data suggests that disruption of the SOX2 TAD by preventing binding of the genome organizer CTCF mirrors reduction in SOX2 expression seen in 3-Hit NSCs. Additionally, those regions which lose interaction with the SOX2 promoter in 3-Hit NSCs correlate with regions found to have marks of being active enhancers in other SOX2 expressing cell types. We hypothesize that CTCF eviction in 3-Hit NSCs results in a loss of SOX2 expression through a disruption of promoter interactions with previously uncharacterized enhancers in the SOX2 locus. To evaluate this hypothesis, I will employ complementary and independent approaches that address the involvement of CTCF mediated chromatin architecture dysfunction in glioma initiation, identify novel SOX2 enhancers in NSCs, examine the activity of these enhancers in glioma initiation, and dissect the activity of these enhancers in stem cell differentiation. Finally, I will validate the relevance of these enhancers in glioma by inferring their activity from single cell ATAC-sequencing of surgical low-grade glioma specimens. Through these approaches, paired with the support of the Placantonakis and Skok labs, I will characterize the role of chromatin disorganization in glioma initiation and help understand the developmental and oncogenic regulation of SOX2.
Low-grade astrocytoma (LGA) is a primary brain malignancy of young adults that initially grows slowly but eventually transforms into aggressive glioblastoma. This project utilizes an LGA stem cell model, recently published by our group, to understand epigenetic changes that underpin oncogenesis in this tumor type. Uncovering how cis-regulatory changes promote LGA initiation and maintenance will enhance our understanding of the pathways required for these events as well as reveal possible strategies for treatment approaches.