Transcriptional Repressor DAXX Promotes Prostate Cancer Tumorigenicity via Suppression of Autophagy [Molecular Bases of Disease]

April 22nd, 2015 by Puto, L. A., Brognard, J., Hunter, T.

The DAXX transcriptional repressor was originally associated with apoptotic cell death. However, recent evidence that DAXX represses several tumor suppressor genes, including the DAPK1 and DAPK3 protein kinases, and is upregulated in many cancers argues that a pro-survival role may predominate in a cancer context. Here, we report that DAXX has potent growth-enhancing effects on primary prostatic malignancy through inhibition of autophagy. Through stable gene knockdown and mouse subcutaneous xenograft studies, we demonstrate that DAXX promotes tumorigenicity of human ALVA-31 and PC3 prostate cancer (PCa) cells in vivo. Importantly, DAXX represses expression of essential autophagy modulators DAPK3 and ULK1 in vivo, revealing autophagy suppression as a mechanism through which DAXX promotes PCa tumorigenicity. Furthermore, DAXX knockdown increases autophagic flux in cultured PCa cells. Finally, interrogation of the OncomineTM database suggests that DAXX overexpression is associated with malignant transformation in several human cancers, including prostate and pancreatic cancers. Thus, DAXX may represent a new cancer biomarker for detection of aggressive disease, whose tissue-specific downregulation can serve as an improved therapeutic modality. Our results establish DAXX as a pro-survival protein in PCa, and reveal that, in the early stages of tumorigenesis, autophagy suppresses prostate tumor formation.