Overexpression of Oct4, a stemness gene encoding a transcription factor, has been reported in several cancers. However, the mechanism by which Oct4 directs transcriptional program that leads to somatic cancer progression remains unclear. In this study, we provide mechanistic insight into Oct4-driven transcriptional network promoting drug-resistance and metastasis in lung cancer cell, animal and clinical studies. Through an integrative approach combining our Oct4 chromatin-immunoprecipitation sequencing and ENCODE datasets, we identified the genome-wide binding regions of Oct4 in lung cancer at promoter and enhancer of numerous genes involved in critical pathways which promote tumorigenesis. Notably, PTEN and TNC were previously undefined targets of Oct4. In addition, novel Oct4-binding motifs were found to overlap with DNA elements for Sp1 transcription factor. We provided evidence that Oct4 suppressed PTEN in an Sp1-dependent manner by recruitment of HDAC1/2, leading to activation of AKT signaling and drug-resistance. In contrast, Oct4 transactivated TNC independent of Sp1 and resulted in cancer metastasis. Clinically, lung cancer patients with Oct4 high, PTEN low and TNC high expression profile significantly correlated with poor disease-free survival. Our study reveals a critical Oct4-driven transcriptional program that promotes lung cancer progression, illustrating the therapeutic potential of targeting Oc4 transcriptionally regulated genes.
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