Oncogene activation and loss of tumor suppressor function changes the metabolic activity of cancer cells to drive unrestricted proliferation. Moreover, cancer cells adapt their metabolism to sustain growth and survival when access to oxygen and nutrients is restricted, such as in poorly vascularized tumor areas. We show here that p53-deficient colon cancer cells exposed to tumor-like metabolic stress in spheroid culture activated the mevalonate pathway to promote the synthesis of ubiquinone. This was essential to maintain mitochondrial electron transport for respiration and pyrimidine synthesis in metabolically compromised environments. Induction of mevalonate pathway enzyme expression in the absence of p53 was mediated by accumulation and stabilization of mature SREBP2. Mevalonate pathway inhibition by statins blocked pyrimidine nucleotide biosynthesis and induced oxidative stress and apoptosis in p53-deficient cancer cells in spheroid culture. Moreover, ubiquinone produced by the mevalonate pathway was essential for the growth of p53-deficient tumor organoids. In contrast, inhibition of intestinal hyperproliferation by statins in an Apc/KrasG12D-mutant mouse model was independent of de novo pyrimidine synthesis. Our results highlight the importance of the mevalonate pathway for maintaining mitochondrial electron transfer and biosynthetic activity in cancer cells exposed to metabolic stress. They also demonstrate that the metabolic output of this pathway depends on both genetic and environmental context.
Significance: These findings suggest that p53-deficient cancer cells activate the mevalonate pathway via SREBP2 and promote the synthesis of ubiquinone that plays an essential role in reducing oxidative stress and supports the synthesis of pyrimidine nucleotide
Background: Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) is a powerful tool for studying complex biological systems, such as tumor heterogeneity and tissue microenvironments. However, the sources of technical and biological variation in primary solid tumor tissues and patient-derived mouse xenografts for scRNA-seq are not well understood.
Results: We use low temperature (6 °C) protease and collagenase (37 °C) to identify the transcriptional signatures associated with tissue dissociation across a diverse scRNA-seq dataset comprising 155,165 cells from patient cancer tissues, patient-derived breast cancer xenografts, and cancer cell lines. We observe substantial variation in standard quality control metrics of cell viability across conditions and tissues. From the contrast between tissue protease dissociation at 37 °C or 6 °C, we observe that collagenase digestion results in a stress response. We derive a core gene set of 512 heat shock and stress response genes, including FOS and JUN, induced by collagenase (37 °C), which are minimized by dissociation with a cold active protease (6 °C). While induction of these genes was highly conserved across all cell types, cell type-specific responses to collagenase digestion were observed in patient tissues.
Conclusions: The method and conditions of tumor dissociation influence cell yield and transcriptome state and are both tissue- and cell-type dependent. Interpretation of stress pathway expression differences in cancer single-cell studies, including components of surface immune recognition such as MHC class I, may be especially confounded. We define a core set of 512 genes that can assist with the identification of such effects in dissociated scRNA-seq experiments.
Accurate measurement of clonal genotypes, mutational processes, and replication states from individual tumor-cell genomes will facilitate improved understanding of tumor evolution. We have developed DLP+, a scalable single-cell whole-genome sequencing platform implemented using commodity instruments, image-based object recognition, and open source computational methods. Using DLP+, we have generated a resource of 51,926 single-cell genomes and matched cell images from diverse cell types including cell lines, xenografts, and diagnostic samples with limited material. From this resource we have defined variation in mitotic mis-segregation rates across tissue types and genotypes. Analysis of matched genomic and image measurements revealed correlations between cellular morphology and genome ploidy states. Aggregation of cells sharing copy number profiles allowed for calculation of single-nucleotide resolution clonal genotypes and inference of clonal phylogenies and avoided the limitations of bulk deconvolution. Finally, joint analysis over the above features defined clone-specific chromosomal aneuploidy in polyclonal populations.
The most common causes of chronic liver disease are excess alcohol intake, viral hepatitis and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, with the clinical spectrum ranging in severity from hepatic inflammation to cirrhosis, liver failure or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The genome of HCC exhibits diverse mutational signatures, resulting in recurrent mutations across more than 30 cancer genes. Stem cells from normal livers have a low mutational burden and limited diversity of signatures, which suggests that the complexity of HCC arises during the progression to chronic liver disease and subsequent malignant transformation. Here, by sequencing whole genomes of 482 microdissections of 100–500 hepatocytes from 5 normal and 9 cirrhotic livers, we show that cirrhotic liver has a higher mutational burden than normal liver. Although rare in normal hepatocytes, structural variants, including chromothripsis, were prominent in cirrhosis. Driver mutations, such as point mutations and structural variants, affected 1–5% of clones. Clonal expansions of millimetres in diameter occurred in cirrhosis, with clones sequestered by the bands of fibrosis that surround regenerative nodules. Some mutational signatures were universal and equally active in both non-malignant hepatocytes and HCCs; some were substantially more active in HCCs than chronic liver disease; and others—arising from exogenous exposures—were present in a subset of patients. The activity of exogenous signatures between adjacent cirrhotic nodules varied by up to tenfold within each patient, as a result of clone-specific and microenvironmental forces. Synchronous HCCs exhibited the same mutational signatures as background cirrhotic liver, but with higher burden. Somatic mutations chronicle the exposures, toxicity, regeneration and clonal structure of liver tissue as it progresses from health to disease.
The highest frequencies of KRAS mutations occur in colorectal carcinoma (CRC) and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). The ability to target downstream pathways mediating KRAS oncogenicity is limited by an incomplete understanding of the contextual cues modulating the signaling output of activated K-RAS. We performed mass spectrometry on mouse tissues expressing wild-type or mutant Kras to determine how tissue context and genetic background modulate oncogenic signaling. Mutant Kras dramatically altered the proteomes and phosphoproteomes of preneoplastic and neoplastic colons and pancreases in a context-specific manner. We developed an approach to statistically humanize the mouse networks with data from human cancer and identified genes within the humanized CRC and PDAC networks synthetically lethal with mutant KRAS. Our studies demonstrate the context-dependent plasticity of oncogenic signaling, identify non-canonical mediators of KRAS oncogenicity within the KRAS-regulated signaling network, and demonstrate how statistical integration of mouse and human datasets can reveal cross-species therapeutic insights.