Diffuse midline gliomas are uniformly fatal pediatric central nervous system cancers that are refractory to standard-of-care therapeutic modalities. The primary genetic drivers are a set of recurrent amino acid substitutions in genes encoding histone H3 (H3K27M), which are currently undruggable. These H3K27M oncohistones perturb normal chromatin architecture, resulting in an aberrant epigenetic landscape. To interrogate for epigenetic dependencies, we performed a CRISPR screen and show that patient-derived H3K27M-glioma neurospheres are dependent on core components of the mammalian BAF (SWI/SNF) chromatin remodeling complex. The BAF complex maintains glioma stem cells in a cycling, oligodendrocyte precursor cell–like state, in which genetic perturbation of the BAF catalytic subunit SMARCA4 (BRG1), as well as pharmacologic suppression, opposes proliferation, promotes progression of differentiation along the astrocytic lineage, and improves overall survival of patient-derived xenograft models. In summary, we demonstrate that therapeutic inhibition of the BAF complex has translational potential for children with H3K27M gliomas.
Epigenetic dysregulation is at the core of H3K27M-glioma tumorigenesis. Here, we identify the BRG1–BAF complex as a critical regulator of enhancer and transcription factor landscapes, which maintain H3K27M glioma in their progenitor state, precluding glial differentiation, and establish pharmacologic targeting of the BAF complex as a novel treatment strategy for pediatric H3K27M glioma