This article was originally published here
Mol Oncol. 2021 Sep 14. doi: 10.1002/1878-0261.13101. Online ahead of print.
Wilms tumour (WT), an embryonal kidney cancer, has been extensively characterised for genetic and epigenetic alterations, but a proportion of WTs still lack identifiable abnormalities. To uncover DNA methylation changes critical for WT pathogenesis, we compared the epigenome of fetal kidney with two WT cell lines, filtering our results to remove common cancer-associated epigenetic changes, and to enrich for genes involved in early kidney development. This identified four hypermethylated genes, of which ESRP2 (epithelial splicing regulatory protein 2) was the most promising for further study. ESRP2 was commonly repressed by DNA methylation in WT, and this occurred early in WT development (in nephrogenic rests). ESRP2 expression was reactivated by DNA methyltransferase inhibition in WT cell lines. When ESRP2 was overexpressed in WT cell lines, it inhibited cellular proliferation in vitro, and in vivo it suppressed tumour growth of orthotopic xenografts in nude mice. RNA-seq of the ESRP2-expressing WT cell lines identified several novel splicing targets. We propose a model in which epigenetic inactivation of ESRP2 disrupts the mesenchymal to epithelial transition in early kidney development to generate WT.