Image1_The Histone H3K27me3 Demethylases KDM6A/B Resist Anoikis and Transcriptionally Regulate Stemness-Related Genes.TIF
Epithelial cancer cells that lose attachment from the extracellular matrix (ECM) to seed in a distant organ often undergo anoikis’s specialized form of apoptosis. Recently, KDM3A (H3K9 demethylase) has been identified as a critical effector of anoikis in cancer cells. However, whether other histone demethylases are involved in promoting or resisting anoikis remains elusive. We screened the major histone demethylases and found that both H3K27 histone demethylases, namely, KDM6A/B were highly expressed during ECM detachment. Inhibition of the KDM6A/B activity by using a specific inhibitor results in reduced sphere formation capacity and increased apoptosis. Knockout of KDM6B leads to the loss of stem cell properties in solitary cells. Furthermore, we found that KDM6B maintains stemness by transcriptionally regulating the expression of stemness genes SOX2, SOX9, and CD44 in detached cells. KDM6B occupies the promoter region of both SOX2 and CD44 to regulate their expression epigenetically. We also noticed an increased occupancy of the HIF1α promoter by KDM6B, suggesting its regulatory role in maintaining hypoxia in detached cancer cells. This observation was further strengthened as we found a significant positive association in the expression of both KDM6B and HIF1α in various cancer types. Overall, our results reveal a novel transcriptional program that regulates resistance against anoikis and maintains stemness-like properties.