Addiction of Merkel cell carcinoma to MUC1-C identifies a potential new target for treatment.

Academic Article


  • Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) is an aggressive malignancy with neuroendocrine (NE) features, limited treatment options, and a lack of druggable targets. There is no reported involvement of the MUC1-C oncogenic protein in MCC progression. We show here that MUC1-C is broadly expressed in MCCs and at higher levels in Merkel cell polyomavirus (MCPyV)-positive (MCCP) relative to MCPyV-negative (MCCN) tumors. Our results further demonstrate that MUC1-C is expressed in MCCP, as well as MCCN, cell lines and regulates common sets of signaling pathways related to RNA synthesis, processing, and transport in both subtypes. Mechanistically, MUC1-C (i) interacts with MYCL, which drives MCC progression, (ii) is necessary for expression of the OCT4, SOX2, KLF4, MYC, and NANOG pluripotency factors, and (iii) induces the NEUROD1, BRN2 and ATOH1 NE lineage dictating transcription factors. We show that MUC1-C is also necessary for MCCP and MCCN cell survival by suppressing DNA replication stress, the p53 pathway, and apoptosis. In concert with these results, targeting MUC1-C genetically and pharmacologically inhibits MCC self-renewal capacity and tumorigenicity. These findings demonstrate that MCCP and MCCN cells are addicted to MUC1-C and identify MUC1-C as a potential target for MCC treatment.
  • Authors

  • Morimoto, Yoshihiro
  • Fushimi, Atsushi
  • Yamashita, Nami
  • Hagiwara, Masayuki
  • Bhattacharya, Atrayee
  • Cheng, Jingwei
  • Frost, Thomas C
  • Ahmad, Rehan
  • Daimon, Tatsuaki
  • Huang, Lei
  • Hata, Tsuyoshi
  • Takahashi, Hidekazu
  • Yamamoto, Masaaki
  • Suzuki, Yozo
  • DeCaprio, James A
  • Kufe, Donald
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • July 2022
  • Published In

  • Oncogene  Journal
  • Keywords

  • Carcinoma, Merkel Cell
  • Humans
  • Merkel cell polyomavirus
  • Mucin-1
  • Signal Transduction
  • Skin Neoplasms
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 3511
  • End Page

  • 3523
  • Volume

  • 41
  • Issue

  • 27