The NOTCH1/SNAIL1/MEF2C Pathway Regulates Growth and Self-Renewal in Embryonal Rhabdomyosarcoma

Myron S. Ignatius, Madeline N. Hayes, Riadh Lobbardi, Eleanor Y. Chen, Karin M. McCarthy, Prethish Sreenivas, Zainab Motala, Adam D. Durbin, Aleksey Molodtsov, Sophia Reeder, Alexander Jin, Sivasish Sindiri, Brian C. Beleyea, Deepak Bhere, Matthew S. Alexander, Khalid Shah, Charles Keller, Corinne M. Linardic, Petur G. Nielsen, David MalkinJaved Khan, David M. Langenau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Tumor-propagating cells (TPCs) share self-renewal properties with normal stem cells and drive continued tumor growth. However, mechanisms regulating TPC self-renewal are largely unknown, especially in embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (ERMS)—a common pediatric cancer of muscle. Here, we used a zebrafish transgenic model of ERMS to identify a role for intracellular NOTCH1 (ICN1) in increasing TPCs by 23-fold. ICN1 expanded TPCs by enabling the de-differentiation of zebrafish ERMS cells into self-renewing myf5+ TPCs, breaking the rigid differentiation hierarchies reported in normal muscle. ICN1 also had conserved roles in regulating human ERMS self-renewal and growth. Mechanistically, ICN1 upregulated expression of SNAIL1, a transcriptional repressor, to increase TPC number in human ERMS and to block muscle differentiation through suppressing MEF2C, a myogenic differentiation transcription factor. Our data implicate the NOTCH1/SNAI1/MEF2C signaling axis as a major determinant of TPC self-renewal and differentiation in ERMS, raising hope of therapeutically targeting this pathway in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2304-2318
Number of pages15
JournalCell Reports
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 13 2017


  • MEF2C
  • NOTCH1
  • SNAI1
  • de-differentiation
  • muscle
  • rhabdomyosarcoma
  • self-renewal
  • tumor propagating cells
  • zebrafish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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