Dzieran J, Rodriguez Garcia A, Westermark UK, Henley AB, Eyre Sánchez E, Träger C, Johansson HJ, Lehtiö J, Arsenian-Henriksson M
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 115 (6) E1229-E1238 [2018-02-06; online 2018-01-26]
Neuroblastoma (NB) is a remarkably heterogenic childhood tumor of the sympathetic nervous system with clinical behavior ranging from spontaneous regression to poorly differentiated tumors and metastasis. MYCN is amplified in 20% of cases and correlates with an undifferentiated, aggressive phenotype and poor prognosis. Estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) and the nerve growth factor (NGF) receptors TrkA and p75NTR are involved in neuronal differentiation and survival. We have previously shown that MYCN, via miR-18a, targets ERα in NB cells. Here, we demonstrate that interference with miR-18a or overexpression of ERα is sufficient to induce NGF signaling and to modulate both basal and NGF-induced neuronal differentiation in MYCN-amplified NB cells. Proteomic analysis confirmed an increase of neuronal features and showed that processes linked to tumor initiation and progression were inhibited upon ERα overexpression. Indeed, ectopic ERα expression was sufficient to inhibit metabolic activity and tumorigenic processes, including glycolysis, oxidative phosphorylation, cell viability, migration, and anchorage independent growth. Importantly, ERα overexpression reduced tumor burden in NB mouse models and high ERα levels were linked to improved survival in patients. In addition to ERα, several other nuclear hormone receptors (NHRs), including the glucocorticoid and the retinoic acid receptors, correlated with clinical markers for favorable and low-stage NB disease. Our data suggest that MYCN targets ERα and thereby NGF signaling to maintain an undifferentiated and aggressive phenotype. Notably, we identified the estrogen-NGF crosstalk, as well as a set of other NHRs, as potential prognostic markers and targets for therapeutic strategies against NB.