X- And Y-Linked chromatin-modifying genes as regulators of sex-specific cancer incidence and prognosis

Rossella Tricarico, Emmanuelle Nicolas, Michael J. Hall, Erica A. Golemis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Biological sex profoundly conditions organismal development and physiology, imposing wide-ranging effects on cell signaling, metabolism, and immune response. These effects arise from sex-specified differences in hormonal exposure, and from intrinsic genetic and epigenetic differences associated with the presence of an XX versus XY chromosomal complement. In addition, biological sex is now recognized to be a determinant of the incidence, presentation, and therapeutic response of multiple forms of cancer, including cancers not specifically associated with male or female anatomy. Although multiple factors contribute to sex-based differences in cancer, a growing body of research emphasizes a role for differential activity of X- and Y-linked tumor-suppressor genes in males and females. Among these, the X-linked KDM6A/UTX and KDM5C/JARID1C/SMCX, and their Y-linked paralogs UTY/KDM6C and KDM5D/JARID1D/SMCY encode lysine demethylases. These epigenetic modulators profoundly influence gene expression, based on enzymatic activity in demethylating H3K27me3 and H3K4me3, and nonenzymatic scaffolding roles for large complexes that open and close chromatin for transcription. In a growing number of cases, mutations affecting these proteins have been recognized to strongly influence cancer risk, prognosis, and response to specific therapies. However, sex-specific patterns of mutation, expression, and activity of these genes, coupled with tissue-specific requirement for their function as tumor suppressors, together exemplify the complex relationship between sex and cancer vulnerabilities. In this review, we summarize and discuss the current state of the literature on the roles of these proteins in contributing to sex bias in cancer, and the status of clinical agents relevant to their function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5567-5578
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2021


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