DOI: 10.1002/advs.202305002 ISSN: 2198-3844

CYTOR Facilitates Formation of FOSL1 Phase Separation and Super Enhancers to Drive Metastasis of Tumor Budding Cells in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Wenjin Wang, Bokai Yun, Rosalie G Hoyle, Zhikun Ma, Shadid Uz Zaman, Gan Xiong, Chen Yi, Nan Xie, Ming Zhang, Xiqiang Liu, Dipankar Bandyopadhyay, Jiong Li, Cheng Wang
  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Engineering
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • General Materials Science
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


Tumor budding (TB) is a small tumor cell cluster with highly aggressive behavior located ahead of the invasive tumor front. However, the molecular and biological characteristics of TB and the regulatory mechanisms governing TB phenotypes remain unclear. This study reveals that TB exhibits a particular dynamic gene signature with stemness and partial epithelial‐mesenchymal transition (p‐EMT). Importantly, nuclear expression of CYTOR is identified to be the key regulator governing stemness and the p‐EMT phenotype of TB cells, and targeting CYTOR significantly inhibits TB formation, tumor growth and lymph node metastasis in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). Mechanistically, CYTOR promotes tumorigenicity and metastasis of TB cells by facilitating the formation of FOSL1 phase‐separated condensates to establish FOSL1‐dependent super enhancers (SEs). Depletion of CYTOR leads to the disruption of FOSL1‐dependent SEs, which results in the inactivation of cancer stemness and pro‐metastatic genes. In turn, activation of FOSL1 promotes the transcription of CYTOR. These findings indicate that CYTOR is a super‐lncRNA that controls the stemness and metastasis of TB cells through facilitating the formation of FOSL1 phase separation and SEs, which may be an attractive target for therapeutic interventions in HNSCC.

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