Transposable Elements Are Co-opted as Oncogenic Regulatory Elements by Lineage-Specific Transcription Factors in Prostate Cancer.



We show that oncogenesis relies on co-opting transposable elements from pluripotent stem cells as regulatory elements altering the recruitment of lineage-specific transcription factors. We further discover how co-option is dependent on active chromatin states with important implications for developing treatment options against drivers of oncogenesis across the repetitive DNA. This article is featured in Selected Articles from This Issue, p. 2293.


Transposable elements hold regulatory functions that impact cell fate determination by controlling gene expression. However, little is known about the transcriptional machinery engaged at transposable elements in pluripotent and mature versus oncogenic cell states. Through positional analysis over repetitive DNA sequences of H3K27ac chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing data from 32 normal cell states, we report pluripotent/stem and mature cell state-specific "regulatory transposable elements." Pluripotent/stem elements are binding sites for pluripotency factors (e.g., NANOG, SOX2, OCT4). Mature cell elements are docking sites for lineage-specific transcription factors, including AR and FOXA1 in prostate epithelium. Expanding the analysis to prostate tumors, we identify a subset of regulatory transposable elements shared with pluripotent/stem cells, including Tigger3a. Using chromatin editing technology, we show how such elements promote prostate cancer growth by regulating AR transcriptional activity. Collectively, our results suggest that oncogenesis arises from lineage-specific transcription factors hijacking pluripotent/stem cell regulatory transposable elements.

More about this publication

Cancer discovery
  • Volume 13
  • Issue nr. 11
  • Pages 2470-2487
  • Publication date 01-11-2023

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