Bromodomain protein BRDT directs ΔNp63 function and super-enhancer activity in a subset of esophageal squamous cell carcinomas

Xin Wang, Ana P. Kutschat, Moyuru Yamada, Evangelos Prokakis, Patricia Böttcher, Koji Tanaka, Yuichiro Doki, Feda H. Hamdan, Steven A. Johnsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC) is the predominant subtype of esophageal cancer with a particularly high prevalence in certain geographical regions and a poor prognosis with a 5-year survival rate of 15–25%. Despite numerous studies characterizing the genetic and transcriptomic landscape of ESCC, there are currently no effective targeted therapies. In this study, we used an unbiased screening approach to uncover novel molecular precision oncology targets for ESCC and identified the bromodomain and extraterminal (BET) family member bromodomain testis-specific protein (BRDT) to be uniquely expressed in a subgroup of ESCC. Experimental studies revealed that BRDT expression promotes migration but is dispensable for cell proliferation. Further mechanistic insight was gained through transcriptome analyses, which revealed that BRDT controls the expression of a subset of ΔNp63 target genes. Epigenome and genome-wide occupancy studies, combined with genome-wide chromatin interaction studies, revealed that BRDT colocalizes and interacts with ΔNp63 to drive a unique transcriptional program and modulate cell phenotype. Our data demonstrate that these genomic regions are enriched for super-enhancers that loop to critical ΔNp63 target genes related to the squamous phenotype such as KRT14, FAT2, and PTHLH. Interestingly, BET proteolysis-targeting chimera, MZ1, reversed the activation of these genes. Importantly, we observed a preferential degradation of BRDT by MZ1 compared with BRD2, BRD3, and BRD4. Taken together, these findings reveal a previously unknown function of BRDT in ESCC and provide a proof-of-concept that BRDT may represent a novel therapeutic target in cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2207-2220
Number of pages14
JournalCell Death and Differentiation
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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