Loss of SWI/SNF chromatin remodeling alters NRF2 signaling in non-small cell lung carcinoma

Shujie Song, Vinh Nguyen, Travis Schrank, Kathleen Mulvaney, Vonn Walter, Darmood Wei, Tess Orvis, Nisarg Desai, Jiren Zhang, D. Neil Hayes, Yanfang Zheng, Michael B. Major, Bernard E. Weissman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The NF-E2-related factor 2 (referred to as NRF2) transcription factor binds antioxidant responsive elements within the promoters of cytoprotective genes to induce their expression. Next-generation sequencing studies in lung cancer have shown a significant number of activating mutations within the NRF2 signaling pathway. Mutations in components of the SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling complex, a general regulator of transcription using either BRG1 or BRM as the catalytic subunit, also frequently occur in lung cancers. Importantly, low BRG1 expression levels in primary human NSCLC correlated with increased NRF2-target gene expression. Here, we show that loss of SWI/SNF complex function activated a subset of NRF2-mediated transcriptional targets. Using a series of isogenic NSCLC lines with reduced or depleted BRG1 and/or BRM expression, we observed significantly increased expression of the NRF2-target genes HMOX1 and GSTM4. In contrast, expression of the NRF2 target genes NQO1 and GCLM modestly increased following BRM reduction. Chromatin immunoprecipitation showed that BRG1 knockdown led to increased NRF2 binding at its respective ARE sites in the HMOX1 promoter but not in NQO1 and GCLM. Our data demonstrate that loss of BRG1 or BRM in lung cancer results in activation of the NRF2/KEAP1 pathway and HMOX1 expression. Therefore, we provide an additional molecular explanation for why patients harboring BRG1 or BRM mutations show poor prognoses. A better understanding of this mechanism may yield novel insights into the design of targeted treatment modalities. Implications: Our study identifies a novel mechanism for how mutations in the SMARCA4 gene may drive progression of human lung adenocarcinomas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1777-1788
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Cancer Research
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


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