Genome-wide analysis unveils DNA Helicase RECQ1 as a regulator of estrogen response pathway in breast cancer cells

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Susceptibility to breast cancer is significantly increased in individuals with germ line mutations in RECQ1 (also known as RECQL or RECQL1), a gene encoding a DNA helicase essential for genome maintenance. We previously reported that RECQ1 expression predicts clinical outcomes for sporadic breast cancer patients stratified by estrogen receptor (ER) status. Here, we utilized an unbiased integrative genomics approach to delineate a cross talk between RECQ1 and ERa, a known master regulatory transcription factor in breast cancer. We found that expression of ESR1, the gene encoding ERa, is directly activated by RECQ1. More than 35% of RECQ1 binding sites were cobound by ERa genome-wide. Mechanistically, RECQ1 cooperates with FOXA1, the pioneer transcription factor for ERa, to enhance chromatin accessibility at the ESR1 regulatory regions in a helicase activity-dependent manner. In clinical ERapositive breast cancers treated with endocrine therapy, high RECQ1 and high FOXA1 coexpressing tumors were associated with better survival. Collectively, these results identify RECQ1 as a novel cofactor for ERa and uncover a previously unknown mechanism by which RECQ1 regulates disease-driving gene expression in ER-positive breast cancer cells.

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