Cell Reports Medicine
Chordomas are rare spinal tumors addicted to expression of the developmental transcription factor brachyury. In chordomas, brachyury is super-enhancer associated and preferentially downregulated by pharmacologic transcriptional CDK inhibition, leading to cell death. To understand the underlying basis of this sensitivity, we dissect the brachyury transcription regulatory network and compare the consequences of brachyury degradation with transcriptional CDK inhibition. Brachyury defines the chordoma super-enhancer landscape and autoregulates through binding its super-enhancer, and its locus forms a transcriptional condensate. Transcriptional CDK inhibition and brachyury degradation disrupt brachyury autoregulation, leading to loss of its transcriptional condensate and transcriptional program. Compared with transcriptional CDK inhibition, which globally downregulates transcription, leading to cell death, brachyury degradation is much more selective, inducing senescence and sensitizing cells to anti-apoptotic inhibition. These data suggest that brachyury downregulation is a core tenet of transcriptional CDK inhibition and motivates developing strategies to target brachyury and its autoregulatory feedback loop.