Ectopic Cushing's syndrome due to ectopic ACTH&CRH-secreting by pheochromocytoma is extremely rare and can be fatal if not properly diagnosed. It remains unclear whether a unique cell type is responsible for multiple hormones secreting. In this work, we performed single-cell RNA sequencing to 3 different anatomic tumor tissues and 1 peritumoral tissue based on a rare case with ectopic ACTH&CRH-secreting pheochromocytoma. And in addition to that, 3 adrenal tumor specimens from common pheochromocytoma and adrenocortical adenomas were also involved in the comparison of tumor cellular heterogeneity. A total of 16 cell types in the tumor microenvironment were identified by unbiased cell clustering of single-cell transcriptomic profiles from all specimens. Notably, we identified a novel multi-functionally chromaffin-like cell type with high expression of both POMC (the precursor of ACTH) and CRH, called ACTH+&CRH+ pheochromocyte. We hypothesized that the molecular mechanism of the rare case harbor Cushing's syndrome is due to the identified novel tumor cell type, that is, the secretion of ACTH had a direct effect on the adrenal gland to produce cortisol, while the secretion of CRH can indirectly stimulate the secretion of ACTH from the anterior pituitary. Besides, a new potential marker (GAL) co-expressed with ACTH and CRH might be involved in the regulation of ACTH secretion. The immunohistochemistry results confirmed its multi-functionally chromaffin-like properties with positive staining for CRH, POMC, ACTH, GAL, TH and CgA. Our findings also proved to some extent the heterogeneity of endothelial and immune microenvironment in different adrenal tumor subtypes.
The raw data of scRNA-seq sequencing reads generated in this study were deposited in The National Genomics Data Center (NGDC, https://bigd.big.ac.cn/) under the accession number: PRJCA003766.
- Hanzhong Li
- Taijiao Jiang
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Human subjects: Specimen collection was obtained after appropriate research consents (and assents when applicable) and was approved by the Institutional Review Board, Peking Union Medical College Hospital. All information obtained was protected and de-identified. (protocol number: S K431)
- Murim Choi, Seoul National University, Republic of Korea
© 2021, Zhang 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.
Hyperactivation of oncogenic pathways downstream of RAS and PI3K/AKT in normal cells induces a senescence-like phenotype that acts as a tumor-suppressive mechanism that must be overcome during transformation. We previously demonstrated that AKT-induced senescence (AIS) is associated with profound transcriptional and metabolic changes. Here, we demonstrate that human fibroblasts undergoing AIS display upregulated cystathionine-β-synthase (CBS) expression and enhanced uptake of exogenous cysteine, which lead to increased hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and glutathione (GSH) production, consequently protecting senescent cells from oxidative stress-induced cell death. CBS depletion allows AIS cells to escape senescence and re-enter the cell cycle, indicating the importance of CBS activity in maintaining AIS. Mechanistically, we show this restoration of proliferation is mediated through suppressing mitochondrial respiration and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production by reducing mitochondrial localized CBS while retaining antioxidant capacity of transsulfuration pathway. These findings implicate a potential tumor-suppressive role for CBS in cells with aberrant PI3K/AKT pathway activation. Consistent with this concept, in human gastric cancer cells with activated PI3K/AKT signaling, we demonstrate that CBS expression is suppressed due to promoter hypermethylation. CBS loss cooperates with activated PI3K/AKT signaling in promoting anchorage-independent growth of gastric epithelial cells, while CBS restoration suppresses the growth of gastric tumors in vivo. Taken together, we find that CBS is a novel regulator of AIS and a potential tumor suppressor in PI3K/AKT-driven gastric cancers, providing a new exploitable metabolic vulnerability in these cancers.
Cells encountering stressful situations activate the integrated stress response (ISR) pathway to limit protein synthesis and redirect translation to better cope. The ISR has also been implicated in cancers, but redundancies in the stress-sensing kinases that trigger the ISR have posed hurdles to dissecting physiological relevance. To overcome this challenge, we targeted the regulatory node of these kinases, namely the S51 phosphorylation site of eukaryotic translation initiation factor eIF2α and genetically replaced eIF2α with eIF2α-S51A in mouse squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) stem cells of skin. While inconsequential under normal growth conditions, the vulnerability of this ISR-null state was unveiled when SCC stem cells experienced proteotoxic stress. Seeking mechanistic insights into the protective roles of the ISR, we combined ribosome profiling and functional approaches to identify and probe the functional importance of translational differences between ISR-competent and ISR-null SCC stem cells when exposed to proteotoxic stress. In doing so, we learned that the ISR redirects translation to centrosomal proteins that orchestrate the microtubule dynamics needed to efficiently concentrate unfolded proteins at the microtubule organizing center so that they can be cleared by the perinuclear degradation machinery. Thus, rather than merely maintaining survival during proteotoxic stress, the ISR also functions in promoting cellular recovery once the stress has subsided. Remarkably, this molecular program is unique to transformed skin stem cells hence exposing a vulnerability in cancer that could be exploited therapeutically.