Cancer/testis (CT) antigens are proteins whose expression is normally restricted to germ cells yet aberrantly activated in tumors, where their functions remain relatively cryptic. Here we report that ZNF165, a CT antigen frequently expressed in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), associates with SMAD3 to modulate transcription of transforming growth factor b (TGFb)-dependent genes and thereby promote growth and survival of human TNBC cells. In addition, we identify the KRAB zinc finger protein, ZNF446, and its associated tripartite motif protein, TRIM27, as obligate components of the ZNF165-SMAD3 complex that also support tumor cell viability. Importantly, we find that TRIM27 alone is necessary for ZNF165 transcriptional activity and is required for TNBC tumor growth in vivo using an orthotopic xenograft model in immunocompromised mice. Our findings indicate that aberrant expression of a testis-specific transcription factor is sufficient to co-opt somatic transcriptional machinery to drive a pro-tumorigenic gene expression program in TNBC.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)