Cancer-associated exportin-6 upregulation inhibits the transcriptionally repressive and anticancer effects of nuclear profilin-1

Cuige Zhu, Sun Joong Kim, Arshag Mooradian, Faliang Wang, Ziqian Li, Sean Holohan, Patrick L. Collins, Keren Wang, Zhanfang Guo, Jeremy Hoog, Cynthia X. Ma, Gene Oltz, Jason M. Held, Jieya Shao

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12 Scopus citations


Aberrant expression of nuclear transporters and deregulated subcellular localization of their cargo proteins are emerging as drivers and therapeutic targets of cancer. Here, we present evidence that the nuclear exporter exportin-6 and its cargo profilin-1 constitute a functionally important and frequently deregulated axis in cancer. Exportin-6 upregulation occurs in numerous cancer types and is associated with poor patient survival. Reducing exportin-6 level in breast cancer cells triggers antitumor effects by accumulating nuclear profilin-1. Mechanistically, nuclear profilin-1 interacts with eleven-nineteen-leukemia protein (ENL) within the super elongation complex (SEC) and inhibits the ability of the SEC to drive transcription of numerous pro-cancer genes including MYC. XPO6 and MYC are positively correlated across diverse cancer types including breast cancer. Therapeutically, exportin-6 loss sensitizes breast cancer cells to the bromodomain and extra-terminal (BET) inhibitor JQ1. Thus, exportin-6 upregulation is a previously unrecognized cancer driver event by spatially inhibiting nuclear profilin-1 as a tumor suppressor. By defining the moonlighting function of the small actin-binding protein profilin-1 in the nucleus as a transcriptional repressor and the prevalent upregulation of its nuclear exporter exportin-6 in diverse cancer types, Zhu et al. show that deregulation of protein subcellular localization is an important non-oncogene addiction with strong therapeutic potential.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108749
JournalCell Reports
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 16 2021


  • BET bromodomain
  • ENL
  • MYC
  • epigenetics
  • exportin-6
  • nucleocytoplasmic transport
  • profilin-1
  • super elongation complex
  • transcription
  • tumor suppressor


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