Cancer patients often harbor occult metastases, a potential source of relapse that is targetable only through systemic therapy. Studies of this occult fraction have been limited by a lack of tools with which to isolate discrete cells on spatial grounds. We developed PIC-IT, a photoconversion-based isolation technique allowing efficient recovery of cell clusters of any size – including single-metastatic cells – which are largely inaccessible otherwise. In a murine pancreatic cancer model, transcriptional profiling of spontaneously arising microcolonies revealed phenotypic heterogeneity, functionally reduced propensity to proliferate and enrichment for an inflammatory-response phenotype associated with NF-κB/AP-1 signaling. Pharmacological inhibition of NF-κB depleted microcolonies but had no effect on macrometastases, suggesting microcolonies are particularly dependent on this pathway. PIC-IT thus enables systematic investigation of metastatic heterogeneity. Moreover, the technique can be applied to other biological systems in which isolation and characterization of spatially distinct cell populations is not currently feasible.
Sequencing data have been deposited in GEO under the accession code GSE158078.
- Ben Z Stanger
- Ben Z Stanger
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: This study was performed in strict accordance with the recommendations in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the National Institutes of Health. All of the animals were handled according to approved institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) protocols (#804643) of the University of Pennsylvania.
- C Daniela Robles-Espinoza, International Laboratory for Human Genome Research, Mexico
© 2021, Sela 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.
Sequencing of cell-free DNA (cfDNA) is currently being used to detect cancer by searching both for mutational and non-mutational alterations. Recent work has shown that the length distribution of cfDNA fragments from a cancer patient can inform tumor load and type. Here, we propose non-negative matrix factorization (NMF) of fragment length distributions as a novel and completely unsupervised method for studying fragment length patterns in cfDNA. Using shallow whole-genome sequencing (sWGS) of cfDNA from a cohort of patients with metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC), we demonstrate how NMF accurately infers the true tumor fragment length distribution as an NMF component - and that the sample weights of this component correlate with ctDNA levels (r=0.75). We further demonstrate how using several NMF components enables accurate cancer detection on data from various early stage cancers (AUC = 0.96). Finally, we show that NMF, when applied across genomic regions, can be used to discover fragment length signatures associated with open chromatin.
The transformation of normal to malignant cells is accompanied by substantial changes in gene expression programs through diverse mechanisms. Here, we examined the changes in the landscape of transcription start sites and alternative promoter (AP) usage and their impact on the translatome in TCL1-driven chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Our findings revealed a marked elevation of APs in CLL B cells from Eµ-Tcl1 transgenic mice, which are particularly enriched with intra-genic promoters that generate N-terminally truncated or modified proteins. Intra-genic promoter activation is mediated by (1) loss of function of ‘closed chromatin’ epigenetic regulators due to the generation of inactive N-terminally modified isoforms or reduced expression; (2) upregulation of transcription factors, including c-Myc, targeting the intra-genic promoters and their associated enhancers. Exogenous expression of Tcl1 in MEFs is sufficient to induce intra-genic promoters of epigenetic regulators and promote c-Myc expression. We further found a dramatic translation downregulation of transcripts bearing CNY cap-proximal trinucleotides, reminiscent of cells undergoing metabolic stress. These findings uncovered the role of Tcl1 oncogenic function in altering promoter usage and mRNA translation in leukemogenesis.