Bivalent epigenomic regulatory domains containing both activating histone 3 lysine 4 (H3K4me3) and repressive lysine 27 (H3K27me3) trimethylation are associated with key developmental genes. These bivalent domains repress transcription in the absence of differentiation signals but maintain regulatory genes in a poised state to allow for timely activation. Previous studies demonstrated that enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (Ezh2), a histone 3 lysine 27 (H3K27) methyltransferase, suppresses osteogenic differentiation and that inhibition of Ezh2 enhances commitment of osteoblast progenitors in vitro and bone formation in vivo. Here, we examined the mechanistic effects of Tazemetostat (EPZ6438), an Food and Drug Administration approved Ezh2 inhibitor for epithelioid sarcoma treatment, because this drug could potentially be repurposed to stimulate osteogenesis for clinical indications. We find that Tazemetostat reduces H3K27me3 marks in bivalent domains in enhancers required for bone formation and stimulates maturation of MC3T3 preosteoblasts. Furthermore, Tazemetostat activates bivalent genes associated with the Wingless/integrated (WNT), adenylyl cyclase (cAMP), and Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathways based on transcriptomic (RNA-seq) and epigenomic (chromatin immunoprecipitation [ChIP]-seq) data. Functional analyses using selective pathway inhibitors and silencing RNAs demonstrate that the WNT and Hh pathways modulate osteogenic differentiation after Ezh2 inhibition. Strikingly, we show that loss of the Hh-responsive transcriptional regulator Gli1, but not Gli2, synergizes with Tazemetostat to accelerate osteoblast differentiation. These studies establish epigenetic cooperativity of Ezh2, Hh-Gli1 signaling, and bivalent regulatory genes in suppressing osteogenesis. Our findings may have important translational ramifications for anabolic applications requiring bone mass accrual and/or reversal of bone loss.
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