Epigenetic reactivation of LINE-1 retrotransposon disrupts NuRD corepressor functions and induces oncogenic transformation in human bronchial epithelial cells

Pasano Bojang, Kenneth S. Ramos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Long interspersed nuclear element-1 (LINE-1 or L1) reactivation is linked to poor prognosis in non-small-cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC), but the molecular bases of this response remain largely unknown. In this report, we show that challenge of human bronchial epithelial cells (HBECs) with the lung carcinogen, benzo(a)pyrene (BaP), shifted the L1 promoter from a heterochromatic to euchromatic state through disassembly of the nucleosomal and remodeling deacetylase (NuRD) complex. Carcinogen challenge was also associated with partial displacement of constituent proteins from the nuclear to the cytoplasmic compartment. Disruption of NuRD corepression by genetic ablation or carcinogen treatment correlated with accumulation of L1 mRNA and proteins. Mi2β bound directly to the L1 promoter to effect retroelement silencing, and this response required the DNA- and ATPase-binding domains of Mi2β. Sustained expression of L1 in HBECs was tumorigenic in a human–SCID mouse xenograft model, giving rise to tumors that regressed over time. Together, these results show that functional modulation of the NuRD constituent proteins is a critical molecular event in the activation of L1 retrotransposon. L1 expression creates a microenvironment in HBECs that is conducive to neoplasia and malignant transformation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1342-1357
Number of pages16
JournalMolecular Oncology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2018



  • benzo(a)pyrene
  • euchromatin
  • heterochromatin
  • long interspersed nuclear element-1
  • nucleosomal and remodeling deacetylase complex
  • retrotransposon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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