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ANKRD1 is a mesenchymal-specific driver of cancer-associated fibroblast activation bridging androgen receptor loss to AP-1 activation


Mazzeo L. et al.

There are significant commonalities among several pathologies involving fibroblasts, ranging from auto-immune diseases to fibrosis and cancer. Early steps in cancer development and progression are closely linked to fibroblast senescence and transformation into tumor-promoting cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), suppressed by the androgen receptor (AR). Here, we identify ANKRD1 as a mesenchymal-specific transcriptional coregulator under direct AR negative control in human dermal fibroblasts (HDFs) and a key driver of CAF conversion, independent of cellular senescence. ANKRD1 expression in CAFs is associated with poor survival in HNSCC, lung, and cervical SCC patients, and controls a specific gene expression program of myofibroblast CAFs (my-CAFs). ANKRD1 binds to the regulatory region of my-CAF effector genes in concert with AP-1 transcription factors, and promotes c-JUN and FOS association. Targeting ANKRD1 disrupts AP-1 complex formation, reverses CAF activation, and blocks the pro-tumorigenic properties of CAFs in an orthotopic skin cancer model. ANKRD1 thus represents a target for fibroblast-directed therapy in cancer and potentially beyond.

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Published
February, 2024

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