ATF3 coordinates antitumor synergy between epigenetic drugs and protein disulfide isomerase inhibitors

Ravyn M. Duncan, Leticia Reyes, Katelyn Moats, Reeder M. Robinson, Sara A. Murphy, Balveen Kaur, Holly A.F. Stessman, Nathan G. Dolloff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) are largely ineffective in the treatment of solid tumors. In this study, we describe a new class of protein disulfide isomerase (PDI) inhibitors that significantly and synergistically enhance the antitumor activity of HDACi in glioblastoma and pancreatic cancer preclinical models. RNA-sequencing screening coupled with gene silencing studies identified ATF3 as the driver of this antitumor synergy. ATF3 was highly induced by combined PDI and HDACi treatment as a result of increased acetylation of key histone lysine residues (acetylated histone 3 lysine 27 and histone 3 lysine 18) flanking the ATF3 promoter region. These chromatin marks were associated with increased RNA polymerase II recruitment to the ATF3 promoter, a synergistic upregulation of ATF3, and a subsequent apoptotic response in cancer cells. The HSP40/HSP70 family genes DNAJB1 and HSPA6 were found to be critical ATF3-dependent genes that elicited the antitumor response after PDI and HDAC inhibition. In summary, this study presents a synergistic antitumor combination of PDI and HDAC inhibitors and demonstrates a mechanistic and tumor suppressive role of ATF3. Combined treatment with PDI and HDACi offers a dual therapeutic strategy in solid tumors and the opportunity to achieve previously unrealized activity of HDACi in oncology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3279-3291
Number of pages13
JournalCancer Research
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 15 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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