N-Myc regulates expression of pluripotency genes in neuroblastoma including lif, klf2, klf4, and lin28b.
myc genes are best known for causing tumors when overexpressed, but recent studies suggest endogenous myc regulates pluripotency and self-renewal of stem cells. For example, N-myc is associated with a number of tumors including neuroblastoma, but also plays a central role in the function of normal neural stem and precursor cells (NSC). Both c- and N-myc also enhance the production of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) and are linked to neural tumor stem cells. The mechanisms by which myc regulates normal and neoplastic stem-related functions remain largely open questions. Here from a global, unbiased search for N-Myc bound genes using ChIP-chip assays in neuroblastoma, we found lif as a putative N-Myc bound gene with a number of strong N-Myc binding peaks in the promoter region enriched for E-boxes. Amongst putative N-Myc target genes in expression microarray studies in neuroblastoma we also found lif and three additional important embryonic stem cell (ESC)-related factors that are linked to production of iPSC: klf2, klf4, and lin28b. To examine the regulation of these genes by N-Myc, we measured their expression using neuroblastoma cells that contain a Tet-regulatable N-myc transgene (TET21N) as well as NSC with a nestin-cre driven N-myc knockout. N-myc levels closely correlated with the expression of all of these genes in neuroblastoma and all but lif in NSC. Direct ChIP assays also indicate that N-Myc directly binds the lif promoter. N-Myc regulates trimethylation of lysine 4 of histone H3 in the promoter of lif and possibly in the promoters of several other stem-related genes. Together these findings indicate that N-Myc regulates overlapping stem-related gene expression programs in neuroblastoma and NSC, supporting a novel model by which amplification of the N-myc gene may drive formation of neuroblastoma. They also suggest mechanisms by which Myc proteins more generally contribute to maintenance of pluripotency and self-renewal of ESC as well as to iPSC formation.