bims-pideca Biomed News
on Class IA PI3K signalling in development and cancer
Issue of 2021‒11‒21
27 papers selected by
Ralitsa Radostinova Madsen
University College London Cancer Institute

  1. J Clin Invest. 2021 Nov 15. pii: e150335. [Epub ahead of print]131(22):
      Alpelisib selectively inhibits the p110α catalytic subunit of PI3Kα and is approved for treatment of breast cancers harboring canonical PIK3CA mutations. In head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), 63% of PIK3CA mutations occur at canonical hotspots. The oncogenic role of the remaining 37% of PIK3CA noncanonical mutations is incompletely understood. We report a patient with HNSCC with a noncanonical PIK3CA mutation (Q75E) who exhibited a durable (12 months) response to alpelisib in a phase II clinical trial. Characterization of all 32 noncanonical PIK3CA mutations found in HNSCC using several functional and phenotypic assays revealed that the majority (69%) were activating, including Q75E. The oncogenic impact of these mutations was validated in 4 cellular models, demonstrating that their activity was lineage independent. Further, alpelisib exhibited antitumor effects in a xenograft derived from a patient with HNSCC containing an activating noncanonical PIK3CA mutation. Structural analyses revealed plausible mechanisms for the functional phenotypes of the majority of the noncanonical PIK3CA mutations. Collectively, these findings highlight the importance of characterizing the function of noncanonical PIK3CA mutations and suggest that patients with HNSCC whose tumors harbor activating noncanonical PIK3CA mutations may benefit from treatment with PI3Kα inhibitors.
    Keywords:  Head and neck cancer; Oncology
  2. Neural Regen Res. 2022 Jun;17(6): 1172-1182
      Much research has focused on the PI3-kinase and PTEN signaling pathway with the aim to stimulate repair of the injured central nervous system. Axons in the central nervous system fail to regenerate, meaning that injuries or diseases that cause loss of axonal connectivity have life-changing consequences. In 2008, genetic deletion of PTEN was identified as a means of stimulating robust regeneration in the optic nerve. PTEN is a phosphatase that opposes the actions of PI3-kinase, a family of enzymes that function to generate the membrane phospholipid PIP3 from PIP2 (phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-trisphosphate from phosphatidylinositol (4,5)-bisphosphate). Deletion of PTEN therefore allows elevated signaling downstream of PI3-kinase, and was initially demonstrated to promote axon regeneration by signaling through mTOR. More recently, additional mechanisms have been identified that contribute to the neuron-intrinsic control of regenerative ability. This review describes neuronal signaling pathways downstream of PI3-kinase and PIP3, and considers them in relation to both developmental and regenerative axon growth. We briefly discuss the key neuron-intrinsic mechanisms that govern regenerative ability, and describe how these are affected by signaling through PI3-kinase. We highlight the recent finding of a developmental decline in the generation of PIP3 as a key reason for regenerative failure, and summarize the studies that target an increase in signaling downstream of PI3-kinase to facilitate regeneration in the adult central nervous system. Finally, we discuss obstacles that remain to be overcome in order to generate a robust strategy for repairing the injured central nervous system through manipulation of PI3-kinase signaling.
    Keywords:  PI3-kinase; PI3K; PTEN; axon cytoskeleton; axon regeneration; axon transport; cell signaling; central nervous system; growth cone; neuroprotection; trafficking; transcription; translation
  3. Front Cell Dev Biol. 2021 ;9 751892
      The tuberous sclerosis protein complex (TSC complex) is a key integrator of metabolic signals and cellular stress. In response to nutrient shortage and stresses, the TSC complex inhibits the mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) at the lysosomes. mTORC1 is also inhibited by stress granules (SGs), RNA-protein assemblies that dissociate mTORC1. The mechanisms of lysosome and SG recruitment of mTORC1 are well studied. In contrast, molecular details on lysosomal recruitment of the TSC complex have emerged only recently. The TSC complex subunit 1 (TSC1) binds lysosomes via phosphatidylinositol-3,5-bisphosphate [PI(3,5)P2]. The SG assembly factors 1 and 2 (G3BP1/2) have an unexpected lysosomal function in recruiting TSC2 when SGs are absent. In addition, high density lipoprotein binding protein (HDLBP, also named Vigilin) recruits TSC2 to SGs under stress. In this mini-review, we integrate the molecular mechanisms of lysosome and SG recruitment of the TSC complex. We discuss their interplay in the context of cell proliferation and migration in cancer and in the clinical manifestations of tuberous sclerosis complex disease (TSC) and lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM).
    Keywords:  G3BP1 (G3BP stress granule assembly factor 1); HDLBP; TSC complex; autophagy; lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM); lysosomes; mTORC1 (mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1); stress granules (SG)
  4. Brain Behav Immun Health. 2021 Dec;18 100377
      The phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) family plays a major role in cell signaling and is predominant in leukocytes. Gain-of-function (GOF) mutations in the PIK3CD gene lead to the development of activated PI3Kδ syndrome (APDS), a rare primary immunodeficiency disorder. A subset of APDS patients also displays neurodevelopmental delay symptoms, suggesting a potential role of PIK3CD in cognitive and behavioural function. However, the extent and nature of the neurodevelopmental deficits has not been previously quantified. Here, we assessed the cognitive functions of two APDS patients, and investigated the causal role of the PIK3CD GOF mutation in neurological deficits using a murine model of this disease. We used p110δE1020K knock-in mice, harbouring the most common APDS mutation in patients. We found that APDS patients present with visuomotor deficits, exacerbated by autism spectrum disorder comorbidity, whereas p110δE1020K mice exhibited impairments in motor behaviour, learning and repetitive behaviour patterning. Our data indicate that PIK3CD GOF mutations increase the risk for neurodevelopmental deficits, supporting previous findings on the interplay between the nervous and the immune system. Further, our results validate the knock-in mouse model, and offer an objective assessment tool for patients that could be incorporated in diagnosis and in the evaluation of treatments.
    Keywords:  APDS; ASD; Mouse; PID; PIK3CD; Primary immunodeficiency
  5. Nature. 2021 Nov 18.
      Nutrients are emerging regulators of adaptive immunity1. Selective nutrients interplay with immunological signals to activate mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1), a key driver of cell metabolism2-4, but how these environmental signals are integrated for immune regulation remains unclear. Here we use genome-wide CRISPR screening combined with protein-protein interaction networks to identify regulatory modules that mediate immune receptor- and nutrient-dependent signalling to mTORC1 in mouse regulatory T (Treg) cells. SEC31A is identified to promote mTORC1 activation by interacting with the GATOR2 component SEC13 to protect it from SKP1-dependent proteasomal degradation. Accordingly, loss of SEC31A impairs T cell priming and Treg suppressive function in mice. In addition, the SWI/SNF complex restricts expression of the amino acid sensor CASTOR1, thereby enhancing mTORC1 activation. Moreover, we reveal that the CCDC101-associated SAGA complex is a potent inhibitor of mTORC1, which limits the expression of glucose and amino acid transporters and maintains T cell quiescence in vivo. Specific deletion of Ccdc101 in mouse Treg cells results in uncontrolled inflammation but improved antitumour immunity. Collectively, our results establish epigenetic and post-translational mechanisms that underpin how nutrient transporters, sensors and transducers interplay with immune signals for three-tiered regulation of mTORC1 activity and identify their pivotal roles in licensing T cell immunity and immune tolerance.
  6. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2021 Nov 23. pii: e2103626118. [Epub ahead of print]118(47):
      Here, we present detailed kinetic analyses of a panel of soluble lipid kinases and phosphatases, as well as Ras activating proteins, acting on their respective membrane surface substrates. The results reveal that the mean catalytic rate of such interfacial enzymes can exhibit a strong dependence on the size of the reaction system-in this case membrane area. Experimental measurements and kinetic modeling reveal how stochastic effects stemming from low molecular copy numbers of the enzymes alter reaction kinetics based on mechanistic characteristics of the enzyme, such as positive feedback. For the competitive enzymatic cycles studied here, the final product-consisting of a specific lipid composition or Ras activity state-depends on the size of the reaction system. Furthermore, we demonstrate how these reaction size dependencies can be controlled by engineering feedback mechanisms into the enzymes.
    Keywords:  PIP lipid; cell signaling; enzyme kinetics; membrane; stochastic kinetics
  7. Nucleic Acids Res. 2021 Nov 18. pii: gkab1104. [Epub ahead of print]
      Rapid advances in high-throughput sequencing technologies have led to the discovery of thousands of extrachromosomal circular DNAs (eccDNAs) in the human genome. Loss-of-function experiments are difficult to conduct on circular and linear chromosomes, as they usually overlap. Hence, it is challenging to interpret the molecular functions of eccDNAs. Here, we present CircleBase (, an integrated resource and analysis platform used to curate and interpret eccDNAs in multiple cell types. CircleBase identifies putative functional eccDNAs by incorporating sequencing datasets, computational predictions, and manual annotations. It classifies them into six sections including targeting genes, epigenetic regulations, regulatory elements, chromatin accessibility, chromatin interactions, and genetic variants. The eccDNA targeting and regulatory networks are displayed by informative visualization tools and then prioritized. Functional enrichment analyses revealed that the top-ranked cancer cell eccDNAs were enriched in oncogenic pathways such as the Ras and PI3K-Akt signaling pathways. In contrast, eccDNAs from healthy individuals were not significantly enriched. CircleBase provides a user-friendly interface for searching, browsing, and analyzing eccDNAs in various cell/tissue types. Thus, it is useful to screen for potential functional eccDNAs and interpret their molecular mechanisms in human cancers and other diseases.
  8. Nat Commun. 2021 Nov 18. 12(1): 6667
      Inhibition of HER2 in HER2-amplified breast cancer has been remarkably successful clinically, as demonstrated by the efficacy of HER-kinase inhibitors and HER2-antibody treatments. Whilst resistance to HER2 inhibition is common in the metastatic setting, the specific programs downstream of HER2 driving resistance are not established. Through genomic profiling of 733 HER2-amplified breast cancers, we identify enrichment of somatic alterations that promote MEK/ERK signaling in metastatic tumors with shortened progression-free survival on anti-HER2 therapy. These mutations, including NF1 loss and ERBB2 activating mutations, are sufficient to mediate resistance to FDA-approved HER2 kinase inhibitors including tucatinib and neratinib. Moreover, resistant tumors lose AKT dependence while undergoing a dramatic sensitization to MEK/ERK inhibition. Mechanistically, this driver pathway switch is a result of MEK-dependent activation of CDK2 kinase. These results establish genetic activation of MAPK as a recurrent mechanism of anti-HER2 therapy resistance that may be effectively combated with MEK/ERK inhibitors.
  9. J Clin Invest. 2021 Nov 15. pii: e144871. [Epub ahead of print]131(22):
      Growing tumors exist in metabolically compromised environments that require activation of multiple pathways to scavenge nutrients to support accelerated rates of growth. The folliculin (FLCN) tumor suppressor complex (FLCN, FNIP1, FNIP2) is implicated in the regulation of energy homeostasis via 2 metabolic master kinases: AMPK and mTORC1. Loss-of-function mutations of the FLCN tumor suppressor complex have only been reported in renal tumors in patients with the rare Birt-Hogg-Dube syndrome. Here, we revealed that FLCN, FNIP1, and FNIP2 are downregulated in many human cancers, including poor-prognosis invasive basal-like breast carcinomas where AMPK and TFE3 targets are activated compared with the luminal, less aggressive subtypes. FLCN loss in luminal breast cancer promoted tumor growth through TFE3 activation and subsequent induction of several pathways, including autophagy, lysosomal biogenesis, aerobic glycolysis, and angiogenesis. Strikingly, induction of aerobic glycolysis and angiogenesis in FLCN-deficient cells was dictated by the activation of the PGC-1α/HIF-1α pathway, which we showed to be TFE3 dependent, directly linking TFE3 to Warburg metabolic reprogramming and angiogenesis. Conversely, FLCN overexpression in invasive basal-like breast cancer models attenuated TFE3 nuclear localization, TFE3-dependent transcriptional activity, and tumor growth. These findings support a general role of a deregulated FLCN/TFE3 tumor suppressor pathway in human cancers.
    Keywords:  Angiogenesis; Breast cancer; Cancer; Metabolism
  10. J Mol Biol. 2021 Nov 16. pii: S0022-2836(21)00597-0. [Epub ahead of print] 167360
      Phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate (PI3P), a scaffold of membrane-associated proteins required for diverse cellular events, is produced by Vps34-containing phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K). PI3K complex I (PI3KCI)-generated PI3P is required for macroautophagy, whereas PI3K complex II (PI3KCII)-generated PI3P is required for endosomal sorting complex required for transport (ESCRT)-mediated multi-vesicular body (MVB) formation in late endosomes. ESCRT also promotes vacuolar membrane remodeling in microautophagy after nutrient starvation and inactivation of target of rapamycin complex 1 (TORC1) protein kinase in budding yeast. Whereas PI3KCI and macroautophagy are critical for the nutrient starvation response, the physiological roles of PI3KCII and microautophagy during starvation are largely unknown. Here, we showed that PI3KCII-produced PI3P on vacuolar membranes is required for microautophagy induction and survival in nutrient-stressed conditions. PI3KCII is required for Vps27 (an ESCRT-0 component) recruitment and ESCRT-0 complex formation on vacuolar surfaces after TORC1 inactivation. Forced recruitment of Vps27 onto vacuolar membranes rescued the defect in microautophagy induction in PI3KCII-deficient cells, indicating that a critical role of PI3P on microautophagy induction is Vps27 recruitment onto vacuolar surfaces. Finally, vacuolar membrane-associated Vps27 was able to recover survival during nutrient starvation in cells lacking PI3KCII or Vps27. This study revealed that the PI3KCII-PI3P-Vps27 axis on vacuolar membranes is critical for ESCRT-mediated microautophagy induction and nutrient stress adaptation.
    Keywords:  ESCRT; TORC1; microautophagy; phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase complex II; phosphatidylinositol 3-phosphate
  11. Endocrinology. 2021 Nov 17. pii: bqab233. [Epub ahead of print]
      17β-Estradiol (E2) treatment of ovariectomized adult mice stimulates the uterine PI3K-AKT signaling pathway and epithelial proliferation through estrogen receptor 1 (ESR1). However, epithelial proliferation occurs independently of E2/ESR1 signaling in neonatal uteri. Similarly, estrogen-independent uterine epithelial proliferation is seen in adulthood in mice lacking Ezh2, critical for histone methylation, and in WT mice treated neonatally with estrogen. The role of AKT in this estrogen-independent uterine epithelial proliferation was the focus of this study. Expression of p-AKT and epithelial proliferation were high in estrogen receptor 1 knockout and WT mice at postnatal day 6 (PND 6), when E2 concentrations were low, indicating that neither ESR1 nor E2 are essential for p-AKT expression and epithelial proliferation in these mice. However, p-AKT levels and proliferation remained estrogen responsive in pre-weaning WT mice. Expression of p-AKT and proliferation were both high in uterine luminal epithelium of mice estrogenized neonatally and ovariectomized during adulthood. Increased expression of phosphorylated (inactive) EZH2 was also observed. Consistent with this, Ezh2 conditional knockout mice show ovary-independent uterine epithelial proliferation and high epithelial p-AKT. Thus, adult p-AKT expression is constitutive and E2/ESR1 independent in both model systems. Finally, E2-induced p-AKT expression and normal uterine proliferation did not occur in mice lacking membrane (m)ESR1, indicating a key role for mESR1 in AKT activation. These findings emphasize the importance of p-AKT activation in promoting uterine epithelial proliferation even when that proliferation is not E2/ESR1 dependent and further indicate that p-AKT can be uncoupled from E2/ESR1 signaling in several experimental scenarios.
    Keywords:  Estrogen; cell proliferation; estrogen receptor 1; membrane steroid receptors; protein kinase; uterine epithelium
  12. Clin Cancer Res. 2021 Nov 17. pii: clincanres.1237.2021. [Epub ahead of print]
      The management of CLL has undergone unprecedented changes over the last decade. Modern targeted therapies are incorporated into clinical practice. Unfortunately, patients have begun to develop resistance or intolerance to multiple classes. Symptomatic patients previously treated with a BTK inhibitor and venetoclax represent a new and rapidly growing unmet need in CLL. Here we define unmet needs in a modern treatment context. We also critically review the literature for PI3K inhibitors and chemoimmunotherapy and lack of data to support their utility following BTK inhibitors and venetoclax. Finally, we suggest opportunities to ensure the continued innovation for patients with CLL.
  13. J Cell Sci. 2021 Nov 15. pii: jcs.258964. [Epub ahead of print]
      Insulin stimulates adipose tissue to extract fatty acids from circulation and sequester them inside adipose cells. How fatty acids are transported across the capillary endothelial barrier, or how this process is regulated, remains unclear. We modeled the relationship of adipocytes and endothelial cells in vitro to test the role of insulin in fatty acid transport. Treatment of endothelial cells with insulin did not affect endothelial fatty acid uptake, but endothelial cells took up more fatty acids when exposed to media conditioned by adipocytes treated with insulin. Manipulations of this conditioned media indicated that the secreted factor is a small, hydrophilic, non-proteinaceous metabolite. Factor activity was correlated with lactate concentration, and inhibition of lactate production in adipocytes abolished the activity. Finally, lactate alone was sufficient to increase endothelial uptake of both free fatty acids and lipids liberated from chylomicrons, and to promote trans-endothelial transport, at physiologically relevant concentrations. Together, these data suggest that insulin drives adipocytes to secrete lactate, which then acts in a paracrine fashion to promote fatty acid uptake and transport across the neighboring endothelial barrier.
    Keywords:  Adipose tissue; Endothelium; Fatty acids; Lactate; Paracrine
  14. Physiology (Bethesda). 2021 Nov 15.
      Research conducted over the last 50 years has provided insight into the mechanisms by which insulin stimulates glucose transport across the skeletal muscle cell membrane. Transport alone, however, does not result in net glucose uptake as freeglucose equilibrates across the cell membrane and is not metabolized. Glucose uptake requires that glucose is phosphorylated by hexokinases. Phosphorylated glucosecannot leave the cell and is the substrate for metabolism. It is indisputable that glucose phosphorylation is essential for glucose uptake. Major advances have been made in defining the regulation of the insulin-stimulated glucose transporter, GLUT4, in skeletalmuscle. By contrast, the insulin-regulated hexokinase, hexokinase II parallels RobertFrost's Road Not Taken. Here the case is made that an understanding of glucosephosphorylation by hexokinase II is necessary to define the regulation of skeletal muscle glucose uptake in health and insulin resistance. Results of studies from different physiological disciplines that have elegantly described how hexokinase II can beregulated are summarized to provide a framework for potential application to skeletal muscle. Mechanisms by which hexokinase II is regulated in skeletal muscle await rigorous examination.
    Keywords:  GLUT4; glucose; hexokinase; insulin; muscle
  15. Cell Rep. 2021 Nov 16. pii: S2211-1247(21)01483-2. [Epub ahead of print]37(7): 110005
      Young adult cancer has increased in incidence worldwide, but its molecular etiologies remain unclear. We systematically characterize genomic profiles of young adult tumors with ages of onset ≤50 years and compare them to later-onset tumors using over 6,000 cases across 14 cancer types. While young adult tumors generally show lower mutation burdens and comparable copy-number variation rates compared to later-onset cases, they are enriched for multiple driver mutations and copy-number alterations in subtype-specific contexts. Characterization of tumor immune microenvironments reveals pan-cancer patterns of elevated TGF-β response/dendritic cells and lower IFN-γ response/macrophages relative to later-onset tumors, corresponding to age-related responses to immunotherapy in several cancer types. Finally, we identify prevalent clinically actionable events that disproportionally affect young adult or later-onset cases. The resulting catalog of age-related molecular drivers can guide precision diagnostics and treatments for young adult cancer.
    Keywords:  DNA methylation; clinical actionability; copy-number variation; early-onset cancer; gene expression; gene fusion; metabolic dysregulation; somatic mutation; tumor immune microenvironment; young adult cancer
  16. Oncogene. 2021 Nov 17.
      As the p53 tumor suppressor is rarely mutated in conjunctival melanoma (CM), we investigated its activation as a potential therapeutic strategy. Preventing p53/Mdm2 interaction by Nutlin-3, the prototypical Mdm2 antagonist, or via direct siRNA Mdm2 depletion, increased p53 and inhibited viability in CM cell lines. The sensitivity to Nutlin-3 p53 reactivation with concomitant Mdm2 stabilization was higher than that achieved by siRNA, indicative of effects on alternative Mdm2 targets, identified as the cancer-protective IGF-1R. Nutlin-3 treatment increased the association between IGF-1R and β-arrestin1, the adaptor protein that brings Mdm2 to the IGF-1R, initiating receptor degradation in a ligand-dependent manner. Controlled expression of β-arrestin1 augmented inhibitory Nutlin-3 effects on CM survival through enhanced IGF-1R degradation. Yet, the effect of IGF-1R downregulation on cell proliferation is balanced by β-arrestin1-induced p53 inhibition. As mitomycin (MMC) is a well-established adjuvant treatment for CM, and it triggers p53 activation through genotoxic stress, we evaluated how these alternative p53-targeting strategies alter the cancer-relevant bioactivities of CM. In 2D and 3D in vitro models, Nutlin-3 or MMC alone, or in combination, reduces the overall cell tumor growth ~30%, with double treatment inhibition rate only marginally higher than single-drug regimens. However, histopathological evaluation of the 3D models revealed that Nutlin-3 was the most effective, causing necrotic areas inside spheroids and complete loss of nuclear staining for the proliferative marker Ki67. These findings were further validated in vivo; zebrafish xenografts demonstrate that Nutlin-3 alone has higher efficacy in restraining CM tumor cell growth and preventing metastasis. Combined, these results reveal that β-arrestin1 directs Mdm2 toward different substrates, thus balancing IGF-1R pro-tumorigenic and p53-tumor suppressive signals. This study defines a potent dual-hit strategy: simultaneous control of a tumor-promoter (IGF-1R) and tumor-suppressor (p53), which ultimately mitigates recurrent and metastatic potential, thus opening up targeted therapy to CM.
  17. Elife. 2021 Nov 17. pii: e69015. [Epub ahead of print]10
      We performed a systematic analysis of the translation rate of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) and the microenvironment inputs affecting it, both in humans and in mice. Measurement of puromycin incorporation, a proxy of protein synthesis, revealed an increase of translating CD4+ and CD8+ cells in tumors, compared to normal tissues. High translation levels are associated with phospho-S6 labeling downstream of mTORC1 activation, whereas low levels correlate with hypoxic areas, in agreement with data showing that T cell receptor stimulation and hypoxia act as translation stimulators and inhibitors, respectively. Additional analyses revealed the specific phenotype of translating TILs. CD8+ translating cells have enriched expression of IFN-γ and CD-39, and reduced SLAMF6, pointing to a cytotoxic phenotype. CD4+ translating cells are mostly regulatory T cells (Tregs) with enriched levels of CTLA-4 and Ki67, suggesting an expanding immunosuppressive phenotype. In conclusion, the majority of translationally active TILs is represented by cytotoxic CD8+ and suppressive CD4+ Tregs, implying that other subsets may be largely composed by inactive bystanders.
    Keywords:  CD4+; CD8+; Treg; cell biology; human; immunology; inflammation; mouse; translation
  18. Nucleic Acids Res. 2021 Nov 12. pii: gkab1028. [Epub ahead of print]
      The Reactome Knowledgebase (, an Elixir core resource, provides manually curated molecular details across a broad range of physiological and pathological biological processes in humans, including both hereditary and acquired disease processes. The processes are annotated as an ordered network of molecular transformations in a single consistent data model. Reactome thus functions both as a digital archive of manually curated human biological processes and as a tool for discovering functional relationships in data such as gene expression profiles or somatic mutation catalogs from tumor cells. Recent curation work has expanded our annotations of normal and disease-associated signaling processes and of the drugs that target them, in particular infections caused by the SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 coronaviruses and the host response to infection. New tools support better simultaneous analysis of high-throughput data from multiple sources and the placement of understudied ('dark') proteins from analyzed datasets in the context of Reactome's manually curated pathways.
  19. Nucleic Acids Res. 2021 Nov 17. pii: gkab1020. [Epub ahead of print]
      The ability to study cellular heterogeneity at single cell resolution is making single-cell sequencing increasingly popular. However, there is no publicly available resource that offers an integrated cell atlas with harmonized metadata that users can integrate new data with. Here, we present DISCO (, a database of Deeply Integrated Single-Cell Omics data. The current release of DISCO integrates more than 18 million cells from 4593 samples, covering 107 tissues/cell lines/organoids, 158 diseases, and 20 platforms. We standardized the associated metadata with a controlled vocabulary and ontology system. To allow large scale integration of single-cell data, we developed FastIntegration, a fast and high-capacity version of Seurat Integration. We also developed CELLiD, an atlas guided automatic cell type identification tool. Employing these two tools on the assembled data, we constructed one global atlas and 27 sub-atlases for different tissues, diseases, and cell types. DISCO provides three online tools, namely Online FastIntegration, Online CELLiD, and CellMapper, for users to integrate, annotate, and project uploaded single-cell RNA-seq data onto a selected atlas. Collectively, DISCO is a versatile platform for users to explore published single-cell data and efficiently perform integrated analysis with their own data.
  20. Nat Commun. 2021 Nov 16. 12(1): 6622
      The mammalian target of rapamycin (mTORC1) has been shown to regulate autophagy at different steps. However, how mTORC1 regulates the N-ethylmaleimide-sensitive protein receptor (SNARE) complex remains elusive. Here we show that mTORC1 inhibits formation of the SNARE complex (STX17-SNAP29-VAMP8) by phosphorylating VAMP8, thereby blocking autophagosome-lysosome fusion. A VAMP8 phosphorylation mimic mutant is unable to promote autophagosome-lysosome fusion in vitro. Furthermore, we identify SCFD1, a Sec1/Munc18-like protein, that localizes to the autolysosome and is required for SNARE complex formation and autophagosome-lysosome fusion. VAMP8 promotes SCFD1 recruitment to autolysosomes when dephosphorylated. Consistently, phosphorylated VAMP8 or SCFD1 depletion inhibits autophagosome-lysosome fusion, and expression of phosphomimic VAMP8 leads to increased lipid droplet accumulation when expressed in mouse liver. Thus, our study supports that mTORC1-mediated phosphorylation of VAMP8 blocks SCFD1 recruitment, thereby inhibiting STX17-SNAP29-VAMP8 complex formation and autophagosome-lysosome fusion.
  21. Nat Biotechnol. 2021 Nov 18.
      A principal challenge in the analysis of tissue imaging data is cell segmentation-the task of identifying the precise boundary of every cell in an image. To address this problem we constructed TissueNet, a dataset for training segmentation models that contains more than 1 million manually labeled cells, an order of magnitude more than all previously published segmentation training datasets. We used TissueNet to train Mesmer, a deep-learning-enabled segmentation algorithm. We demonstrated that Mesmer is more accurate than previous methods, generalizes to the full diversity of tissue types and imaging platforms in TissueNet, and achieves human-level performance. Mesmer enabled the automated extraction of key cellular features, such as subcellular localization of protein signal, which was challenging with previous approaches. We then adapted Mesmer to harness cell lineage information in highly multiplexed datasets and used this enhanced version to quantify cell morphology changes during human gestation. All code, data and models are released as a community resource.
  22. Blood. 2021 Nov 17. pii: blood.2021014052. [Epub ahead of print]
      DNMT3A Overgrowth Syndrome (DOS, also known as Tatton-Brown Rahman Syndrome/TBRS) is one of several overgrowth syndromes with complex phenotypes caused by constitutional mutations in genes encoding epigenetic regulators. The clinical features of DOS are variable but include overgrowth (tall stature and/or obesity) and intellectual disability. DNMT3A is essential for de novo DNA methylation and plays an important role in hematopoiesis. Somatic mutations in DNMT3A are among the most common initiating mutations in normal karyotype acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patients and in elderly people with clonal hematopoiesis. The natural history of DOS has not been fully explored since the first description of this rare condition in 2014. Because of the association of somatic DNMT3A mutations and leukemia development, we assessed information from the ~200 known DOS patients world-wide and were able to document eight with hematologic malignancies. Based on this prevalence, we suggest DOS is a cancer predisposition syndrome, especially for hematologic malignancies. Using recommendations from an expert panel, we suggest DOS patients should be prospectively monitored for hematologic malignancies, which may allow for early intervention and permit its natural history to be better defined.
  23. PLoS Genet. 2021 Nov 15. 17(11): e1009881
      Many tissue-specific stem cells maintain the ability to produce multiple cell types during long periods of non-division, or quiescence. FOXO transcription factors promote quiescence and stem cell maintenance, but the mechanisms by which FOXO proteins promote multipotency during quiescence are still emerging. The single FOXO ortholog in C. elegans, daf-16, promotes entry into a quiescent and stress-resistant larval stage called dauer in response to adverse environmental cues. During dauer, stem and progenitor cells maintain or re-establish multipotency to allow normal development to resume after dauer. We find that during dauer, daf-16/FOXO prevents epidermal stem cells (seam cells) from prematurely adopting differentiated, adult characteristics. In particular, dauer larvae that lack daf-16 misexpress collagens that are normally adult-enriched. Using col-19p::gfp as an adult cell fate marker, we find that all major daf-16 isoforms contribute to opposing col-19p::gfp expression during dauer. By contrast, daf-16(0) larvae that undergo non-dauer development do not misexpress col-19p::gfp. Adult cell fate and the timing of col-19p::gfp expression are regulated by the heterochronic gene network, including lin-41 and lin-29. lin-41 encodes an RNA-binding protein orthologous to LIN41/TRIM71 in mammals, and lin-29 encodes a conserved zinc finger transcription factor. In non-dauer development, lin-41 opposes adult cell fate by inhibiting the translation of lin-29, which directly activates col-19 transcription and promotes adult cell fate. We find that during dauer, lin-41 blocks col-19p::gfp expression, but surprisingly, lin-29 is not required in this context. Additionally, daf-16 promotes the expression of lin-41 in dauer larvae. The col-19p::gfp misexpression phenotype observed in dauer larvae with reduced daf-16 requires the downregulation of lin-41, but does not require lin-29. Taken together, this work demonstrates a novel role for daf-16/FOXO as a heterochronic gene that promotes expression of lin-41/TRIM71 to contribute to multipotent cell fate in a quiescent stem cell model.
  24. Nat Commun. 2021 Nov 18. 12(1): 6704
      Chromosomal rearrangements can generate genetic fusions composed of two distinct gene sequences, many of which have been implicated in tumorigenesis and progression. Our study proposes a model whereby oncogenic gene fusions frequently alter the protein stability of the resulting fusion products, via exchanging protein degradation signal (degron) between gene sequences. Computational analyses of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) identify 2,406 cases of degron exchange events and reveal an enrichment of oncogene stabilization due to loss of degrons from fusion. Furthermore, we identify and experimentally validate that some recurrent fusions, such as BCR-ABL, CCDC6-RET and PML-RARA fusions, perturb protein stability by exchanging internal degrons. Likewise, we also validate that EGFR or RAF1 fusions can be stabilized by losing a computationally-predicted C-terminal degron. Thus, complementary to enhanced oncogene transcription via promoter swapping, our model of degron loss illustrates another general mechanism for recurrent fusion proteins in driving tumorigenesis.
  25. Cancer Discov. 2021 Nov 17. pii: candisc.0030.2021. [Epub ahead of print]
      In tumor-bearing mice, cyclic fasting or fasting-mimicking diets (FMDs) enhance the activity of antineoplastic treatments by modulating systemic metabolism and boosting antitumor immunity. Here we conducted a clinical trial to investigate the safety and biological effects of cyclic, five-day FMD in combination with standard antitumor therapies. In 101 patients, the FMD was safe, feasible, and resulted in a consistent decrease of blood glucose and growth factor concentration, thus recapitulating metabolic changes that mediate fasting/FMD anticancer effects in preclinical experiments. Integrated transcriptomic and deep-phenotyping analyses revealed that FMD profoundly reshapes anticancer immunity by inducing the contraction of peripheral blood immunosuppressive myeloid and regulatory T-cell compartments, paralleled by enhanced intratumor T-helper 1/cytotoxic responses and an enrichment of interferon-gamma and other immune signatures associated with better clinical outcomes in cancer patients. Our findings lay the foundations for phase II/III clinical trials aimed at investigating FMD antitumor efficacy in combination with standard antineoplastic treatments.
  26. Nucleic Acids Res. 2021 Nov 17. pii: gkab1049. [Epub ahead of print]
    Fiona Cunningham, James E Allen, Jamie Allen, Jorge Alvarez-Jarreta, M Ridwan Amode, Irina M Armean, Olanrewaju Austine-Orimoloye, Andrey G Azov, If Barnes, Ruth Bennett, Andrew Berry, Jyothish Bhai, Alexandra Bignell, Konstantinos Billis, Sanjay Boddu, Lucy Brooks, Mehrnaz Charkhchi, Carla Cummins, Luca Da Rin Fioretto, Claire Davidson, Kamalkumar Dodiya, Sarah Donaldson, Bilal El Houdaigui, Tamara El Naboulsi, Reham Fatima, Carlos Garcia Giron, Thiago Genez, Jose Gonzalez Martinez, Cristina Guijarro-Clarke, Arthur Gymer, Matthew Hardy, Zoe Hollis, Thibaut Hourlier, Toby Hunt, Thomas Juettemann, Vinay Kaikala, Mike Kay, Ilias Lavidas, Tuan Le, Diana Lemos, José Carlos Marugán, Shamika Mohanan, Aleena Mushtaq, Marc Naven, Denye N Ogeh, Anne Parker, Andrew Parton, Malcolm Perry, Ivana Piližota, Irina Prosovetskaia, Manoj Pandian Sakthivel, Ahamed Imran Abdul Salam, Bianca M Schmitt, Helen Schuilenburg, Dan Sheppard, José G Pérez-Silva, William Stark, Emily Steed, Kyösti Sutinen, Ranjit Sukumaran, Dulika Sumathipala, Marie-Marthe Suner, Michal Szpak, Anja Thormann, Francesca Floriana Tricomi, David Urbina-Gómez, Andres Veidenberg, Thomas A Walsh, Brandon Walts, Natalie Willhoft, Andrea Winterbottom, Elizabeth Wass, Marc Chakiachvili, Bethany Flint, Adam Frankish, Stefano Giorgetti, Leanne Haggerty, Sarah E Hunt, Garth R IIsley, Jane E Loveland, Fergal J Martin, Benjamin Moore, Jonathan M Mudge, Matthieu Muffato, Emily Perry, Magali Ruffier, John Tate, David Thybert, Stephen J Trevanion, Sarah Dyer, Peter W Harrison, Kevin L Howe, Andrew D Yates, Daniel R Zerbino, Paul Flicek.
      Ensembl ( is unique in its flexible infrastructure for access to genomic data and annotation. It has been designed to efficiently deliver annotation at scale for all eukaryotic life, and it also provides deep comprehensive annotation for key species. Genomes representing a greater diversity of species are increasingly being sequenced. In response, we have focussed our recent efforts on expediting the annotation of new assemblies. Here, we report the release of the greatest annual number of newly annotated genomes in the history of Ensembl via our dedicated Ensembl Rapid Release platform ( We have also developed a new method to generate comparative analyses at scale for these assemblies and, for the first time, we have annotated non-vertebrate eukaryotes. Meanwhile, we continually improve, extend and update the annotation for our high-value reference vertebrate genomes and report the details here. We have a range of specific software tools for specific tasks, such as the Ensembl Variant Effect Predictor (VEP) and the newly developed interface for the Variant Recoder. All Ensembl data, software and tools are freely available for download and are accessible programmatically.
  27. Nat Chem Biol. 2021 Dec;17(12): 1219-1229
      Small molecule drugs form the backbone of modern medicine's therapeutic arsenal. Often less appreciated is the role that small molecules have had in advancing basic biology. In this Review, we highlight how resistance mutations have unlocked the potential of small molecule chemical probes to discover new biology. We describe key instances in which resistance mutations and related genetic variants yielded foundational biological insight and categorize these examples on the basis of their role in the discovery of novel molecular mechanisms, protein allostery, physiology and cell signaling. Next, we suggest ways in which emerging technologies can be leveraged to systematically introduce and characterize resistance mutations to catalyze basic biology research and drug discovery. By recognizing how resistance mutations have propelled biological discovery, we can better harness new technologies and maximize the potential of small molecules to advance our understanding of biology and improve human health.