The Expression of ELOVL4, Repressed by MYCN, Defines Neuroblastoma Patients With Good Outcome

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Cancer cells exhibit dysregulation of critical genes including those involved in lipid biosynthesis, with subsequent defects in metabolism. Here, we show that ELOngation of Very Long chain fatty acids protein 4 (ELOVL4), a rate-limiting enzyme in the biosynthesis of very-long polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3, ≥28 C), is expressed and transcriptionally repressed by the oncogene MYCN in neuroblastoma cells. In keeping, ELOVL4 positively regulates neuronal differentiation and lipids droplets accumulation in neuroblastoma cells. At the molecular level we found that MYCN binds to the promoter of ELOVL4 in close proximity to the histone deacetylases HDAC1, HDAC2, and the transcription factor Sp1 that can cooperate in the repression of ELOVL4 expression. Accordingly, in vitro differentiation results in an increase of fatty acid with 34 carbons with 6 double bonds (FA34:6); and when MYCN is silenced, FA34:6 metabolite is increased compared with the scrambled. In addition, analysis of large neuroblastoma datasets revealed that ELOVL4 expression is highly expressed in localized clinical stages 1 and 2, and low in high-risk stages 3 and 4. More importantly, high expression of ELOVL4 stratifies a subsets of neuroblastoma patients with good prognosis. Indeed, ELOVL4 expression is a marker of better overall clinical survival also in MYCN not amplified patients and in those with neuroblastoma-associated mutations. In summary, our findings indicate that MYCN, by repressing the expression of ELOVL4 and lipid metabolism, contributes to the progression of neuroblastoma.

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Springer Nature