Targeting Chromatin Remodeling in Inflammation and Fibrosis

J. Yang, B. Tian, A. R. Brasier

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

29 Scopus citations


Mucosal surfaces of the human body are lined by a contiguous epithelial cell surface that forms a barrier to aerosolized pathogens. Specialized pattern recognition receptors detect the presence of viral pathogens and initiate protective host responses by triggering activation of the nuclear factor κB (NFκB)/RelA transcription factor and formation of a complex with the positive transcription elongation factor (P-TEFb)/cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK)9 and Bromodomain-containing protein 4 (BRD4) epigenetic reader. The RelA·BRD4·P-TEFb complex produces acute inflammation by regulating transcriptional elongation, which produces a rapid genomic response by inactive genes maintained in an open chromatin configuration engaged with hypophosphorylated RNA polymerase II. We describe recent studies that have linked prolonged activation of the RelA–BRD4 pathway with the epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) by inducing a core of EMT corepressors, stimulating secretion of growth factors promoting airway fibrosis. The mesenchymal state produces rewiring of the kinome and reprogramming of innate responses toward inflammation. In addition, the core regulator Zinc finger E-box homeodomain 1 (ZEB1) silences the expression of the interferon response factor 1 (IRF1), required for type III IFN expression. This epigenetic silencing is mediated by the Enhancer of Zeste 2 (EZH2) histone methyltransferase. Because of their potential applications in cancer and inflammation, small-molecule inhibitors of NFκB/RelA, CDK9, BRD4, and EZH2 have been the targets of medicinal chemistry efforts. We suggest that disruption of the RelA·BRD4·P-TEFb pathway and EZH2 methyltransferase has important implications for reversing fibrosis and restoring normal mucosal immunity in chronic inflammatory diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAdvances in Protein Chemistry and Structural Biology
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages36
StatePublished - 2017

Publication series

NameAdvances in Protein Chemistry and Structural Biology
ISSN (Print)1876-1623


  • Bromodomain 4
  • Epithelial–mesenchymal transition
  • Innate inflammation
  • Transcriptional elongation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Structural Biology
  • Biochemistry


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