Thyroid cancer originates from genetic and epigenetic changes that alter gene expression and cellular signaling pathways. Here, we report that altered expression of the nucleosome-binding protein HMGN4 potentiates thyroid tumorigenesis. Bioinformatics analyses reveal increased HMGN4 expression in thyroid cancer. We find that upregulation of HMGN4 expression in mouse and human cells, and in the thyroid of transgenic mice, alters the cellular transcription profile, downregulates the expression of the tumor suppressors Atm, Atrx and Brca2, and elevates the levels of the DNA damage marker γH2AX. Mouse and human cells overexpressing HMGN4 show increased tumorigenicity as measured by colony formation, by tumor generation in nude mice, and by the formation of preneoplastic lesions in the thyroid of transgenic mice. Our study identifies a novel epigenetic factor that potentiates thyroid oncogenesis and raises the possibility that HMGN4 may serve as an additional diagnostic marker, or therapeutic target in certain thyroid cancers.

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