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Nat Commun


Distal-less homeobox-1 (DLX1) is a well-established non-invasive biomarker for prostate cancer (PCa) diagnosis, however, its mechanistic underpinnings in disease pathobiology are not known. Here, we reveal the oncogenic role of DLX1 and show that abrogating its function leads to reduced tumorigenesis and metastases. We observed that ~60% of advanced-stage and metastatic patients display higher DLX1 levels. Moreover, ~96% of TMPRSS2-ERG fusion-positive and ~70% of androgen receptor (AR)-positive patients show elevated DLX1, associated with aggressive disease and poor survival. Mechanistically, ERG coordinates with enhancer-bound AR and FOXA1 to drive transcriptional upregulation of DLX1 in ERG-positive background. However, in ERG-negative context, AR/AR-V7 and FOXA1 suffice to upregulate DLX1. Notably, inhibiting ERG/AR-mediated DLX1 transcription using BET inhibitor (BETi) or/and anti-androgen drugs reduce its expression and downstream oncogenic effects. Conclusively, this study establishes DLX1 as a direct-target of ERG/AR with an oncogenic role and demonstrates the clinical significance of BETi and anti-androgens for DLX1-positive patients.

Medical Subject Headings

Androgen Antagonists; Animals; Azepines; Cell Line, Tumor; Disease Progression; Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic; Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 3-alpha; Homeodomain Proteins; Humans; Male; Mice; Mice, Knockout; Mice, SCID; Neoplasm Metastasis; Oncogene Proteins, Fusion; Promoter Regions, Genetic; Prostate; Prostatic Neoplasms; Protein Binding; Receptors, Androgen; Serine Endopeptidases; Signal Transduction; Survival Analysis; Transcription Factors; Transcription, Genetic; Transcriptional Regulator ERG; Triazoles; Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays

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