Geometric regulation of histone state directs melanoma reprogramming

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Malignant melanoma displays a high degree of cellular plasticity during disease progression, making classification of the heterogeneous population and selection of an appropriate therapy challenging. Signals in the tumor microenvironment are believed to influence melanoma plasticity through changes in the epigenetic state to guide dynamic differentiation and de-differentiation events that underlie tumorigenicity and dissemination. Here we uncover a relationship between geometric features at perimeter regions of multicellular melanoma aggregates, and reprogramming to a stem cell-like melanoma initiating cell (MIC) through histone marks H3K4Me2 and H3K9Ac. Using an in vitro tumor microengineering approach, we find concurrent expression of molecular MIC markers and spatial enrichment of these histone modifications at perimeter features. Chromatin immunoprecipitation and sequencing analysis demonstrates broad regulation of genes associated with SOX-, ETS-, and USF-families. SOX10 and PRDM14, transcriptional regulators with a putative role in several cancers, overlap with H3K9Ac and show elevated expression in cells along regions of perimeter curvature. siRNA knockdown of the epigenetic modifier PRDM14 abolishes the MIC phenotype suggesting a role in regulating melanoma heterogeneity. Our results suggest mechanotransduction at the periphery of melanoma tumors may orchestrate the activity of epigenetic modifiers to regulate histone state, cellular plasticity, and tumorigenicity.

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