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Protein-coding mutations in clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) have been extensively characterized, frequently involving inactivation of the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) tumor suppressor. Roles for noncoding cis-regulatory aberrations in ccRCC tumorigenesis, however, remain unclear. Analyzing 10 primary tumor/normal pairs and 9 cell lines across 79 chromatin profiles, we observed pervasive enhancer malfunction in ccRCC, with cognate enhancer-target genes associated with tissue-specific aspects of malignancy. Superenhancer profiling identified ZNF395 as a ccRCC-specific and VHL-regulated master regulator whose depletion causes near-complete tumor elimination in vitro and in vivoVHL loss predominantly drives enhancer/superenhancer deregulation more so than promoters, with acquisition of active enhancer marks (H3K27ac, H3K4me1) near ccRCC hallmark genes. Mechanistically, VHL loss stabilizes HIF2α-HIF1β heterodimer binding at enhancers, subsequently recruiting histone acetyltransferase p300 without overtly affecting preexisting promoter-enhancer interactions. Subtype-specific driver mutations such as VHL may thus propagate unique pathogenic dependencies in ccRCC by modulating epigenomic landscapes and cancer gene expression.Significance: Comprehensive epigenomic profiling of ccRCC establishes a compendium of somatically altered cis-regulatory elements, uncovering new potential targets including ZNF395, a ccRCC master regulator. Loss of VHL, a ccRCC signature event, causes pervasive enhancer malfunction, with binding of enhancer-centric HIF2α and recruitment of histone acetyltransferase p300 at preexisting lineage-specific promoter-enhancer complexes. Cancer Discov; 7(11); 1284-305. ©2017 AACR.See related commentary by Ricketts and Linehan, p. 1221This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 1201.

Original publication




Journal article


Cancer Discov

Publication Date





1284 - 1305


Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors, Carcinogenesis, Carcinoma, Renal Cell, Cell Line, Tumor, Chromatin, DNA-Binding Proteins, Enhancer Elements, Genetic, Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic, Humans, Mutation, Oncogenes, Promoter Regions, Genetic, Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid, Transcription Factors, Von Hippel-Lindau Tumor Suppressor Protein, p300-CBP Transcription Factors