TFE3 is a member of the basic helix–loop–helix leucine zipper MiT transcription factor family, and its chimeric proteins are associated with translocation renal cell carcinoma (tRCC). Despite the variety of gene fusions, most TFE3 fusion partner genes are related to spliceosome machinery. Dissecting the function of TFE3 fused to spliceosome machinery factors (TFE3-SF) could direct the development of effective therapies for this lethal disease, which is refractory to standard treatments for kidney cancer. Here, by using a combination of in silico structure prediction, transcriptome profiling, molecular characterization, and high-throughput high-content screening (HTHCS), we interrogated a number of oncogenic mechanisms of TFE3-SF fusions. TFE3-SF fusions drove the transformation of kidney cells and promoted distinct oncogenic phenotypes in a fusion partner-dependent manner, differentially altering the transcriptome and RNA splicing landscape and activating different oncogenic pathways. Inhibiting TFE3-SF dimerization reversed its oncogenic activity and represented a potential target for therapeutic intervention. Screening the FDA-approved drugs library LOPAC and a small-molecule library (Microsource) using HTHCS combined with FRET technology identified compounds that inhibit TFE3-SF dimerization. Hit compounds were validated in 2D and 3D patient-derived xenograft models expressing TFE3-SF. The antihistamine terfenadine decreased cell proliferation and reduced in vivo tumor growth of tRCC. Overall, these results unmask therapeutic strategies to target TFE3-SF dimerization for treating patients with tRCC.

Significance:

TFE3-splicing factor fusions possess both transcription and splicing factor functions that remodel the transcriptome and spliceosome and can be targeted with dimerization inhibitors to suppress the growth of translocation renal cell carcinoma.

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