MAML3 coordinates transcription regulation with receptor tyrosine kinase pathway activation, shedding new light on why this gene is mutated in multiple cancers. Mol Cancer Res; 14(5); 411-22. ©2016 AACR.
Neuroblastoma cell lines can differentiate upon treatment with retinoic acid (RA), a finding that provided the basis for the clinical use of RA to treat neuroblastoma. However, resistance to RA is often observed, which limits its clinical utility. Using a gain-of-function genetic screen, we identified an unexpected link between RA signaling and mastermind-like 3 (MAML3), a known transcriptional coactivator for NOTCH. Our findings indicate that MAML3 expression leads to the loss of activation of a subset of RA target genes, which hampers RA-induced differentiation and promotes resistance to RA. The regulatory DNA elements of this subset of RA target genes show overlap in binding of MAML3 and the RA receptor, suggesting a direct role for MAML3 in the regulation of these genes. In addition, MAML3 has RA-independent functions, including the activation of IGF1R and downstream AKT signaling via upregulation of IGF2, resulting in increased proliferation. These results demonstrate an important mechanistic role for MAML3 in proliferation and RA-mediated differentiation.