Many lines of evidence have indicated that both genetic and non-genetic determinants can contribute to intra-tumor heterogeneity and influence cancer outcomes. Among the best described sub-population of cancer cells generated by non-genetic mechanisms are cells characterized by a CD44+/CD24- cell surface marker profile. Here, we report that human CD44+/CD24- cancer cells are genetically highly unstable due to intrinsic defects in their DNA repair capabilities. In fact, in CD44+/CD24- cells constitutive activation of the TGF-beta axis was both necessary and sufficient to reduce the expression of genes that are critical in coordinating DNA damage repair mechanisms. Consequently, we observed that cancer cells that reside in a CD44+/CD24- state are characterized by increased accumulation of DNA copy number alterations, greater genetic diversity and improved adaptability to drug treatment. Together, these data suggest that the transition into a CD44+/CD24- cell state can promote intra-tumor genetic heterogeneity, spur tumor evolution and increase tumor fitness.
The Cancer Genome Atlas Pan-Cancer analysis projectPublicly available at Gitools (http://www.gitools.org).
- Raffaella Sordella
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Human subjects: Informed consent was received from all patients who participated in the study 14-496 (PI V Singh) .
- Rik Derynck, University of California, San Francisco, United States
© 2017, Pal et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Tumor-initiating cells with reprogramming plasticity or stem-progenitor cell properties (stemness) are thought to be essential for cancer development and metastatic regeneration in many cancers; however, elucidation of the underlying molecular network and pathways remains demanding. Combining machine learning and experimental investigation, here we report CD81, a tetraspanin transmembrane protein known to be enriched in extracellular vesicles (EVs), as a newly identified driver of breast cancer stemness and metastasis. Using protein structure modeling and interface prediction-guided mutagenesis, we demonstrate that membrane CD81 interacts with CD44 through their extracellular regions in promoting tumor cell cluster formation and lung metastasis of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) in human and mouse models. In-depth global and phosphoproteomic analyses of tumor cells deficient with CD81 or CD44 unveils endocytosis-related pathway alterations, leading to further identification of a quality-keeping role of CD44 and CD81 in EV secretion as well as in EV-associated stemness-promoting function. CD81 is co-expressed along with CD44 in human circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and enriched in clustered CTCs that promote cancer stemness and metastasis, supporting the clinical significance of CD81 in association with patient outcomes. Our study highlights machine learning as a powerful tool in facilitating the molecular understanding of new molecular targets in regulating stemness and metastasis of TNBC.
The mTORC1 substrate, S6 Kinase 1 (S6K1), is involved in the regulation of cell growth, ribosome biogenesis, glucose homeostasis, and adipogenesis. Accumulating evidence has suggested a role for mTORC1 signaling in the DNA damage response. This is mostly based on the findings that mTORC1 inhibitors sensitized cells to DNA damage. However, a direct role of the mTORC1-S6K1 signaling pathway in DNA repair and the mechanism by which this signaling pathway regulates DNA repair is unknown. In this study, we discovered a novel role for S6K1 in regulating DNA repair through the coordinated regulation of the cell cycle, homologous recombination (HR) DNA repair (HRR) and mismatch DNA repair (MMR) mechanisms. Here, we show that S6K1 orchestrates DNA repair by phosphorylation of Cdk1 at serine 39, causing G2/M cell cycle arrest enabling homologous recombination and by phosphorylation of MSH6 at serine 309, enhancing MMR. Moreover, breast cancer cells harboring RPS6KB1 gene amplification show increased resistance to several DNA damaging agents and S6K1 expression is associated with poor survival of breast cancer patients treated with chemotherapy. Our findings reveal an unexpected function of S6K1 in the DNA repair pathway, serving as a tumorigenic barrier by safeguarding genomic stability.