Trends Mol Med. 2021 Apr 13:S1471-4914(21)00093-9. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2021.03.008. Online ahead of print.
DUX4, a gene encoding a transcription factor involved in early embryogenesis, is located within the D4Z4 subtelomeric repeat on chromosome 4q35. In most healthy somatic tissues, DUX4 is heavily repressed by multiple genetic and epigenetic mechanisms, and its aberrant expression is linked to facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) where it has been extensively studied. Recently, DUX4 expression has been implicated in oncogenesis, although this is much less explored. In this review, we discuss multiple levels of control of DUX4 expression, including enhancer-promoter interactions, DNA methylation, histone modifications, noncoding RNAs, and telomere positioning effect. We also connect disparate data on intrachromosomal contacts involving DUX4 and emphasize the feedback loops in DUX4 regulation. Finally, we bridge data on DUX4 in FSHD and cancer and discuss prospective approaches for future FSHD therapies and the potential outcomes of DUX4 inhibition in cancer.