Laubscher et. al.
Rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS) is a pediatric malignancy of skeletal muscle lineage. The aggressive alveolar subtype is characterized by t(2;13) or t(1;13) translocations encoding for PAX3- or PAX7-FOXO1 chimeric transcription factors, respectively, and are referred to as fusion positive RMS (FP-RMS). The fusion gene alters the myogenic program and maintains the proliferative state wile blocking terminal differentiation. Here we investigated the contributions of chromatin regulatory complexes to FP-RMS tumor maintenance. We define, for the first time, the mSWI/SNF repertoire in FP-RMS. We find that SMARCA4 (encoding BRG1) is overexpressed in this malignancy compared to skeletal muscle and is essential for cell proliferation. Proteomic studies suggest proximity between PAX3-FOXO1 and BAF complexes, which is further supported by genome-wide binding profiles revealing enhancer colocalization of BAF with core regulatory transcription factors. Further, mSWI/SNF complexes act as sensors of chromatin state and are recruited to sites of de novo histone acetylation. Phenotypically, interference with mSWI/SNF complex function induces transcriptional activation of the skeletal muscle differentiation program associated with MYCN enhancer invasion at myogenic target genes which is reproduced by BRG1 targeting compounds. We conclude that inhibition of BRG1 overcomes the differentiation blockade of FP-RMS cells and may provide a therapeutic strategy for this lethal childhood tumor.