The extracellular sulfatase SULF2 promotes liver tumorigenesis by stimulating assembly of a promoterlooping GLI1-STAT3 transcriptional complex

Ryan M. Carr, Paola A.Romecin Duran, Ezequiel J. Tolosa, Chenchao Ma, Abdul M. Oseini, Catherine D. Moser, Bubu A. Banini, Jianbo Huang, Faizal Asumda, Renumathy Dhanasekaran, Rondell P. Graham, Merih D. Toruner, Stephanie L. Safgren, Luciana L. Almada, Shaoqing Wang, Mrinal M. Patnaik, Lewis R. Roberts, Martin E. Fernandez-Zapico

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The expression of the extracellular sulfatase SULF2 has been associated with increased hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) growth and poor patient survival. However, the molecular mechanisms underlying SULF2-associated tumor growth remain unclear. To address this gap, here we developed a transgenic mouse overexpressing Sulf2 in hepatocytes under the control of the transthyretin promoter. In this model, Sulf2 overexpression potentiated diethylnitrosamine-induced HCC. Further analysis indicated that the transcription factor GLI family zinc finger 1 (GLI1) mediates Sulf2 expression during HCC development. A cross of the Sulf2-overexpressing with Gli1- knockout mice revealed that Gli1 inactivation impairs SULF2- induced HCC. Transcriptomic analysis revealed that Sulf2 overexpression is associated with signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3)-specific gene signatures. Interestingly, the Gli1 knockout abrogated SULF2-mediated induction of several STAT3 target genes, including suppressor of cytokine signaling 2/3 (Socs2/3); Pim-1 proto-oncogene, Ser/Thr kinase (Pim1); and Fms-related tyrosine kinase 4 (Flt4). Human orthologs were similarly regulated by SULF2, dependent on intact GLI1 and STAT3 functions in HCC cells. SULF2 overexpression promoted a GLI1-STAT3 interaction and increased GLI1 and STAT3 enrichment at the promoters of their target genes. Interestingly, the SULF2 overexpression resulted in GLI1 enrichment at select STAT3 consensus sites, and vice versa. siRNA-mediatedSTAT3or GLI1 knockdown reduced promoter binding of GLI1 and STAT3, respectively. Finally, chromatincapture PCR confirmed long-range co-regulation of SOCS2 and FLT3 through changes in promoter conformation. These findings define a mechanism whereby SULF2 drives HCC by stimulating formation of a GLI1-STAT3 transcriptional complex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2698-2712
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Feb 28 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'The extracellular sulfatase SULF2 promotes liver tumorigenesis by stimulating assembly of a promoterlooping GLI1-STAT3 transcriptional complex'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this