BRCA1 or BRCA2 inactivation drives breast and ovarian cancer but also creates vulnerability to poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors. To search for additional targets whose inhibition is synthetically lethal in BRCA2-deficient backgrounds, we screened two pairs of BRCA2 isogenic cell lines with DNA-repair-focused small hairpin RNA (shRNA) and CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats)-based libraries. We found that BRCA2-deficient cells are selectively dependent on multiple pathways including base excision repair, ATR signaling, and splicing. We identified APEX2 and FEN1 as synthetic lethal genes with both BRCA1 and BRCA2 loss of function. BRCA2-deficient cells require the apurinic endonuclease activity and the PCNA-binding domain of Ape2 (APEX2), but not Ape1 (APEX1). Furthermore, BRCA2-deficient cells require the 5' flap endonuclease but not the 5'-3' exonuclease activity of Fen1, and chemically inhibiting Fen1 selectively targets BRCA-deficient cells. Finally, we developed a microhomology-mediated end-joining (MMEJ) reporter and showed that Fen1 participates in MMEJ, underscoring the importance of MMEJ as a collateral repair pathway in the context of homologous recombination (HR) deficiency.
The accurate inheritance of genetic material is a basic necessity in all domains of life and an unexpectedly large number of RNA processing factors are required for mitotic progression and genome stability. NRDE2 (nuclear RNAi defective-2) is an evolutionarily conserved protein originally discovered for its role in nuclear RNA interference (RNAi) and heritable gene silencing in (). The function of the human gene remains poorly understood. Here we show that human NRDE2 is an essential protein required for suppressing intron retention in a subset of pre-mRNAs containing short, GC-rich introns with relatively weak 5' and 3' splice sites. NRDE2 preferentially interacts with components of the U5 small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP), the exon junction complex, and the RNA exosome. Interestingly, depleted cells exhibit greatly increased levels of genomic instability and DNA damage, as well as defects in centrosome maturation and mitotic progression. We identify the essential centriolar satellite protein, CEP131, as a direct NRDE2-regulated target. NRDE2 specifically binds to and promotes the efficient splicing of pre-mRNA, and depleting dramatically reduces CEP131 protein expression, contributing to impaired recruitment of critical centrosomal proteins (e.g., γ-tubulin and Aurora Kinase A) to the spindle poles during mitosis. Our work establishes a conserved role for human in RNA splicing, characterizes the severe genomic instability phenotypes observed upon loss of , and highlights the direct regulation of splicing as one of multiple mechanisms through which such phenotypes might be explained.
: Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) remains the most challenging breast cancer subtype to treat. To date, therapies directed to specific molecular targets have rarely achieved clinically meaningful improvements in outcomes of patients with TNBC, and chemotherapy remains the standard of care. Here, we seek to review the most recent efforts to classify TNBC based on the comprehensive profiling of tumors for cellular composition and molecular features. Technologic advances allow for tumor characterization at ever-increasing depth, generating data that, if integrated with clinical-pathologic features, may help improve risk stratification of patients, guide treatment decisions and surveillance, and help identify new targets for drug development. SIGNIFICANCE: TNBC is characterized by higher rates of relapse, greater metastatic potential, and shorter overall survival compared with other major breast cancer subtypes. The identification of biomarkers that can help guide treatment decisions in TNBC remains a clinically unmet need. Understanding the mechanisms that drive resistance is key to the design of novel therapeutic strategies to help prevent the development of metastatic disease and, ultimately, to improve survival in this patient population.
BACKGROUND: Based on preclinical work, we found that combination of poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors with drugs that inhibit the homologous recombination repair (HRR) pathway (such as PI3K inhibitors) might sensitise HRR-proficient epithelial ovarian cancers to PARP inhibitors. We aimed to assess the safety and identify the recommended phase 2 dose of the PARP inhibitor olaparib in combination with the PI3K inhibitor alpelisib in patients with epithelial ovarian cancer and in patients with breast cancer. METHODS: In this multicentre, open-label, phase 1b trial following a 3 + 3 dose-escalation design, we recruited patients aged 18 years or older with the following key eligibility criteria: confirmed diagnosis of either recurrent ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancer of high-grade serous histology; confirmed diagnosis of either recurrent ovarian, fallopian tube, or primary peritoneal cancer of any histology with known germline BRCA mutations; confirmed diagnosis of recurrent breast cancer of triple-negative histology; or confirmed diagnosis of recurrent breast cancer of any histology with known germline BRCA mutations. Additional patients with epithelial ovarian cancer were enrolled in a dose-expansion cohort. Four dose levels were planned: the starting dose level of alpelisib 250 mg once a day plus olaparib 100 mg twice a day (dose level 0); alpelisib 250 mg once a day plus olaparib 200 mg twice a day (dose level 1); alpelisib 300 mg once a day plus olaparib 200 mg twice a day (dose level 2); and alpelisib 200 mg once a day plus olaparib 200 mg twice a day (dose level 3). Both drugs were administered orally, in tablet formulation. The primary objective was to identify the maximum tolerated dose and the recommended phase 2 dose of the combination of alpelisib and olaparib for patients with epithelial ovarian cancer and patients with breast cancer. Analyses included all patients who received at least one dose of the study drugs. The trial is active, but closed to enrolment; follow-up for patients who completed treatment is ongoing. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01623349. FINDINGS: Between Oct 3, 2014, and Dec 21, 2016, we enrolled 34 patients (28 in the dose-escalation cohort and six in the dose-expansion cohort); two in the dose-escalation cohort were ineligible at the day of scheduled study initiation. Maximum tolerated dose and recommended phase 2 dose were identified as alpelisib 200 mg once a day plus olaparib 200 mg twice a day (dose level 3). Considering all dose levels, the most common treatment-related grade 3-4 adverse events were hyperglycaemia (five [16%] of 32 patients), nausea (three [9%]), and increased alanine aminotransferase concentrations (three [9%]). No treatment-related deaths occurred. Dose-limiting toxic effects included hyperglycaemia and fever with decreased neutrophil count. Of the 28 patients with epithelial ovarian cancer, ten (36%) achieved a partial response and 14 (50%) had stable disease according to Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors 1.1. INTERPRETATION: Combining alpelisib and olaparib is feasible with no unexpected toxic effects. The observed activity provides preliminary clinical evidence of synergism between olaparib and alpelisib, particularly in epithelial ovarian cancer, and warrants further investigation. FUNDING: Ovarian Cancer Dream Team (Stand Up To Cancer, Ovarian Cancer Research Alliance, National Ovarian Cancer Coalition), Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Novartis.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a heterogeneous disease that resides within a complex microenvironment, complicating efforts to understand how different cell types contribute to disease progression. We combined single-cell RNA sequencing and genotyping to profile 38,410 cells from 40 bone marrow aspirates, including 16 AML patients and five healthy donors. We then applied a machine learning classifier to distinguish a spectrum of malignant cell types whose abundances varied between patients and between subclones in the same tumor. Cell type compositions correlated with prototypic genetic lesions, including an association of FLT3-ITD with abundant progenitor-like cells. Primitive AML cells exhibited dysregulated transcriptional programs with co-expression of stemness and myeloid priming genes and had prognostic significance. Differentiated monocyte-like AML cells expressed diverse immunomodulatory genes and suppressed T cell activity in vitro. In conclusion, we provide single-cell technologies and an atlas of AML cell states, regulators, and markers with implications for precision medicine and immune therapies. VIDEO ABSTRACT.
T cell-mediated immune responses are compromised in aged individuals, leading to increased morbidity and reduced response to vaccination. While cellular metabolism tightly regulates T cell activation and function, metabolic reprogramming in aged T cells has not been thoroughly studied. Here, we report a systematic analysis of metabolism during young versus aged naïve T cell activation. We observed a decrease in the number and activation of naïve T cells isolated from aged mice. While young T cells demonstrated robust mitochondrial biogenesis and respiration upon activation, aged T cells generated smaller mitochondria with lower respiratory capacity. Using quantitative proteomics, we defined the aged T cell proteome and discovered a specific deficit in the induction of enzymes of one-carbon metabolism. The activation of aged naïve T cells was enhanced by addition of products of one-carbon metabolism (formate and glycine). These studies define mechanisms of skewed metabolic remodeling in aged T cells and provide evidence that modulation of metabolism has the potential to promote immune function in aged individuals.
The origin of lineage correlations among single cells and the extent of heterogeneity in their intermitotic times (IMT) and apoptosis times (AT) remain incompletely understood. Here we developed single cell lineage-tracking experiments and computational algorithms to uncover correlations and heterogeneity in the IMT and AT of a colon cancer cell line before and during cisplatin treatment. These correlations could not be explained using simple protein production/degradation models. Sister cell fates were similar regardless of whether they divided before or after cisplatin administration and did not arise from proximity-related factors, suggesting fate determination early in a cell's lifetime. Based on these findings, we developed a theoretical model explaining how the observed correlation structure can arise from oscillatory mechanisms underlying cell fate control. Our model recapitulated the data only with very specific oscillation periods that fit measured circadian rhythms, thereby suggesting an important role of the circadian clock in controlling cellular fates.
Members of the KDM5 histone H3 lysine 4 demethylase family are associated with therapeutic resistance, including endocrine resistance in breast cancer, but the underlying mechanism is poorly defined. Here we show that genetic deletion of KDM5A/B or inhibition of KDM5 activity increases sensitivity to anti-estrogens by modulating estrogen receptor (ER) signaling and by decreasing cellular transcriptomic heterogeneity. Higher KDM5B expression levels are associated with higher transcriptomic heterogeneity and poor prognosis in ER+ breast tumors. Single-cell RNA sequencing, cellular barcoding, and mathematical modeling demonstrate that endocrine resistance is due to selection for pre-existing genetically distinct cells, while KDM5 inhibitor resistance is acquired. Our findings highlight the importance of cellular phenotypic heterogeneity in therapeutic resistance and identify KDM5A/B as key regulators of this process.
Necroptosis is a lytic programmed cell death mediated by the RIPK1-RIPK3-MLKL pathway. The loss of Receptor-interacting serine/threonine-protein kinase 3 (RIPK3) expression and necroptotic potential have been previously reported in several cancer cell lines; however, the extent of this loss across cancer types, as well as its mutational drivers, were unknown. Here, we show that RIPK3 expression loss occurs progressively during tumor growth both in patient tumor biopsies and tumor xenograft models. Using a cell-based necroptosis sensitivity screen of 941 cancer cell lines, we find that escape from necroptosis is prevalent across cancer types, with an incidence rate of 83%. Genome-wide bioinformatics analysis of this differential necroptosis sensitivity data in the context of differential gene expression and mutation data across the cell lines identified various factors that correlate with resistance to necroptosis and loss of RIPK3 expression, including oncogenes BRAF and AXL. Inhibition of these oncogenes can rescue the RIPK3 expression loss and regain of necroptosis sensitivity. This genome-wide analysis also identifies that the loss of RIPK3 expression is the primary factor correlating with escape from necroptosis. Thus, we conclude that necroptosis resistance of cancer cells is common and is oncogene driven, suggesting that escape from necroptosis could be a potential hallmark of cancer, similar to escape from apoptosis.
Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) produce durable responses in some melanoma patients, but many patients derive no clinical benefit, and the molecular underpinnings of such resistance remain elusive. Here, we leveraged single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) from 33 melanoma tumors and computational analyses to interrogate malignant cell states that promote immune evasion. We identified a resistance program expressed by malignant cells that is associated with T cell exclusion and immune evasion. The program is expressed prior to immunotherapy, characterizes cold niches in situ, and predicts clinical responses to anti-PD-1 therapy in an independent cohort of 112 melanoma patients. CDK4/6-inhibition represses this program in individual malignant cells, induces senescence, and reduces melanoma tumor outgrowth in mouse models in vivo when given in combination with immunotherapy. Our study provides a high-resolution landscape of ICI-resistant cell states, identifies clinically predictive signatures, and suggests new therapeutic strategies to overcome immunotherapy resistance.
Dissecting cellular differentiation hierarchies in the mammary gland is a prerequisite for understanding both normal development and malignant transformation during tumorigenesis and tumor cell-of-origin. To achieve these goals, several recent papers utilized single cell RNA-seq and lineage tracing to improve our understanding of the composition of the mammary epithelium at different developmental stages.
Immunotherapy has emerged as a major therapeutic modality in oncology. Currently, however, the majority of patients with cancer do not derive benefit from these treatments. Vascular abnormalities are a hallmark of most solid tumours and facilitate immune evasion. These abnormalities stem from elevated levels of proangiogenic factors, such as VEGF and angiopoietin 2 (ANG2); judicious use of drugs targeting these molecules can improve therapeutic responsiveness, partially owing to normalization of the abnormal tumour vasculature that can, in turn, increase the infiltration of immune effector cells into tumours and convert the intrinsically immunosuppressive tumour microenvironment (TME) to an immunosupportive one. Immunotherapy relies on the accumulation and activity of immune effector cells within the TME, and immune responses and vascular normalization seem to be reciprocally regulated. Thus, combining antiangiogenic therapies and immunotherapies might increase the effectiveness of immunotherapy and diminish the risk of immune-related adverse effects. In this Perspective, we outline the roles of VEGF and ANG2 in tumour immune evasion and progression, and discuss the evidence indicating that antiangiogenic agents can normalize the TME. We also suggest ways that antiangiogenic agents can be combined with immune-checkpoint inhibitors to potentially improve patient outcomes, and highlight avenues of future research.
The architecture of normal and diseased tissues strongly influences the development and progression of disease as well as responsiveness and resistance to therapy. We describe a tissue-based cyclic immunofluorescence (t-CyCIF) method for highly multiplexed immuno-fluorescence imaging of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) specimens mounted on glass slides, the most widely used specimens for histopathological diagnosis of cancer and other diseases. t-CyCIF generates up to 60-plex images using an iterative process (a cycle) in which conventional low-plex fluorescence images are repeatedly collected from the same sample and then assembled into a high-dimensional representation. t-CyCIF requires no specialized instruments or reagents and is compatible with super-resolution imaging; we demonstrate its application to quantifying signal transduction cascades, tumor antigens and immune markers in diverse tissues and tumors. The simplicity and adaptability of t-CyCIF makes it an effective method for pre-clinical and clinical research and a natural complement to single-cell genomics.
In injured tissues, regeneration is often associated with cell fate plasticity, in that cells deviate from their normal lineage paths. It is becoming increasingly clear that this plasticity often creates alternative strategies to restore damaged or lost cells. Alternatively, cell fate plasticity is also part and parcel of pathologic tissue transformations that accompany disease. In this Perspective, we summarize a few illustrative examples of physiologic and aberrant cellular plasticity. Then, we speculate on how one could enhance endogenous plasticity to promote regeneration and reverse pathologic plasticity, perhaps inspiring interest in a new class of therapies targeting cell fate modulation.
Background: Craniopharyngiomas are neoplasms of the sellar/parasellar region that are classified into adamantinomatous craniopharyngioma (ACP) and papillary craniopharyngioma (PCP) subtypes. Surgical resection of craniopharyngiomas is challenging, and recurrence is common, frequently leading to profound morbidity. BRAF V600E mutations render PCP susceptible to BRAF/MEK inhibitors, but effective targeted therapies are needed for ACP. We explored the feasibility of targeting the programmed cell death protein 1/programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-1/PD-L1) immune checkpoint pathway in ACP and PCP. Methods: We mapped and quantified PD-L1 and PD-1 expression in ACP and PCP resections using immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence, and RNA in situ hybridization. We used tissue-based cyclic immunofluorescence to map the spatial distribution of immune cells and characterize cell cycle and signaling pathways in ACP tumor cells which intrinsically express PD-1. Results: All ACP (15 ± 14% of cells, n = 23, average ± SD) and PCP (35 ± 22% of cells, n = 18) resections expressed PD-L1. In ACP, PD-L1 was predominantly expressed by tumor cells comprising the cyst lining. In PCP, PD-L1 was highly expressed by tumor cells surrounding the stromal fibrovascular cores. ACP also exhibited tumor cell-intrinsic PD-1 expression in whorled epithelial cells with nuclear-localized beta-catenin. These cells exhibited evidence of elevated mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling. Profiling of immune populations in ACP and PCP showed a modest density of CD8+ T cells. Conclusions: ACP exhibit PD-L1 expression in the tumor cyst lining and intrinsic PD-1 expression in cells proposed to comprise an oncogenic stem-like population. In PCP, proliferative tumor cells express PD-L1 in a continuous band at the stromal-epithelial interface. Targeting PD-L1 and/or PD-1 in both subtypes of craniopharyngioma might therefore be an effective therapeutic strategy.
Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive subtype characterized by extensive intratumoral heterogeneity. To investigate the underlying biology, we conducted single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) of >1500 cells from six primary TNBC. Here, we show that intercellular heterogeneity of gene expression programs within each tumor is variable and largely correlates with clonality of inferred genomic copy number changes, suggesting that genotype drives the gene expression phenotype of individual subpopulations. Clustering of gene expression profiles identified distinct subgroups of malignant cells shared by multiple tumors, including a single subpopulation associated with multiple signatures of treatment resistance and metastasis, and characterized functionally by activation of glycosphingolipid metabolism and associated innate immunity pathways. A novel signature defining this subpopulation predicts long-term outcomes for TNBC patients in a large cohort. Collectively, this analysis reveals the functional heterogeneity and its association with genomic evolution in TNBC, and uncovers unanticipated biological principles dictating poor outcomes in this disease.
Cells respond to DNA damage by activating complex signaling networks that decide cell fate, promoting not only DNA damage repair and survival but also cell death. We have developed a multiscale computational model that quantitatively links chemotherapy-induced DNA damage response signaling to cell fate. The computational model was trained and calibrated on extensive data from U2OS osteosarcoma cells, including the cell cycle distribution of the initial cell population, signaling data measured by Western blotting, and cell fate data in response to chemotherapy treatment measured by time-lapse microscopy. The resulting mechanistic model predicted the cellular responses to chemotherapy alone and in combination with targeted inhibitors of the DNA damage response pathway, which we confirmed experimentally. Computational models such as the one presented here can be used to understand the molecular basis that defines the complex interplay between cell survival and cell death and to rationally identify chemotherapy-potentiating drug combinations.
Cancer cells subvert host immune surveillance by altering immune checkpoint (IC) proteins. Some Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-associated tumors have higher Programmed Cell Death Ligand, PD-L1 expression. However, it is not known how EBV alters ICs in the context of its preferred host, the B lymphocyte and in derived lymphomas. Here, we found that latency III-expressing Burkitt lymphoma (BL), diffuse large B-cell lymphomas (DLBCL) or their EBNA2-transfected derivatives express high PD-L1. In a DLBCL model, EBNA2 but not LMP1 is sufficient to induce PD-L1. Latency III-expressing DLBCL biopsies showed high levels of PD-L1. The PD-L1 targeting oncosuppressor microRNA miR-34a was downregulated in EBNA2-transfected lymphoma cells. We identified early B-cell factor 1 (EBF1) as a repressor of miR-34a transcription. Short hairpin RNA (shRNA)-mediated knockdown of EBF1 was sufficient to induce miR-34a transcription, which in turn reduced PD-L1. MiR-34a reconstitution in EBNA2-transfected DLBCL reduced PD-L1 expression and increased its immunogenicity in mixed lymphocyte reactions (MLR) and in three-dimensional biomimetic microfluidic chips. Given the importance of PD-L1 inhibition in immunotherapy and miR-34a dysregulation in cancers, our findings may have important implications for combinatorial immunotherapy, which include IC inhibiting antibodies and miR-34a, for EBV-associated cancers.
Cancer cell survival is dependent on oxidative-stress defenses against reactive oxygen species (ROS) that accumulate during tumorigenesis. Here, we show a non-canonical oxidative-stress defense mechanism through TRPA1, a neuronal redox-sensing Ca2+-influx channel. In TRPA1-enriched breast and lung cancer spheroids, TRPA1 is critical for survival of inner cells that exhibit ROS accumulation. Moreover, TRPA1 promotes resistance to ROS-producing chemotherapies, and TRPA1 inhibition suppresses xenograft tumor growth and enhances chemosensitivity. TRPA1 does not affect redox status but upregulates Ca2+-dependent anti-apoptotic pathways. NRF2, an oxidant-defense transcription factor, directly controls TRPA1 expression, thus providing an orthogonal mechanism for protection against oxidative stress together with canonical ROS-neutralizing mechanisms. These findings reveal an oxidative-stress defense program involving TRPA1 that could be exploited for targeted cancer therapies.