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This article is part of the supplement: Epigenetics and Chromatin: Interactions and processes

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Polycomb-independent activity of EZH2 in castration resistant prostate cancer

Kexin Xu12*, Zhenhua Jeremy Wu13, Anna C Groner12, Housheng Hansen He123, Changmeng Cai4, Edward C Stack256, Massimo Loda2567, Tao Liu13, Colm Morrissey8, Robert L Vessella89, Philip W Kantoff2, Steven P Balk4, X Shirley Liu13 and Myles Brown12

  • * Corresponding author: Kexin Xu

  • † Equal contributors

Author Affiliations

1 Center for Functional Cancer Epigenetics, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA 02215, USA

2 Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA

3 Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA

4 Hematology-Oncology Division, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA

5 Center for Molecular Oncologic Pathology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA 02115, USA

6 Department of Pathology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA

7 Division of Cancer Studies, King’s College London, London SE18UB, UK

8 Department of Urology, University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

9 Puget Sound VA Health Care System, Seattle, WA 98108, USA

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Epigenetics & Chromatin 2013, 6(Suppl 1):O14  doi:10.1186/1756-8935-6-S1-O14

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:18 March 2013

© 2013 Xu et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Oral presentation

Epigenetic regulators represent a new class of therapeutic targets for cancer [1]. Substantial studies suggest that the enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) is one of such promising targets [2-4]. The current model of EZH2 oncogenic activity primarily focuses on its function as a subunit of Polycomb repressive complex 2 (PRC2), which silences gene expression via EZH2 histone methyltransferase activity [5,6].

Using a genome-wide approach we found that the oncogenic function of EZH2 in castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) is independent of its role as a transcriptional repressor. Instead, it involves the ability of EZH2 to act as a co-activator for critical transcription factors including the androgen receptor (AR). This functional switch is dependent on phosphorylation of EZH2, and requires an intact methyltransferase domain. Given that the loss-of-function mutations of EZH2 were observed in myelodysplastic syndrome and acute leukemia [7,8], our discovery of the non-PRC2 function of EZH2 in CRPC raises the potential to develop inhibitors that specifically target the EZH2 activation function while sparing its PRC2 repressive function to avoid the potential hematologic side effects. In addition, our finding that EZH2 cooperates with AR-associated complexes and requires phosphorylation to support CRPC growth suggests novel combination therapies for the treatment of metastatic, hormone-refractory prostate cancer.


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