bims-pideca Biomed News
on Class IA PI3K signalling in development and cancer
Issue of 2023‒02‒19
thirty-two papers selected by
Ralitsa Radostinova Madsen
University College London Cancer Institute

  1. Sci Rep. 2023 Feb 16. 13(1): 2771
      Phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5) trisphosphate (PIP3) is a plasma membrane-bound signaling phospholipid involved in many cellular signaling pathways that control crucial cellular processes and behaviors, including cytoskeleton remodeling, metabolism, chemotaxis, and apoptosis. Therefore, defective PIP3 signaling is implicated in various diseases, including cancer, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases. Upon activation by G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) or receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs), phosphoinositide-3-kinases (PI3Ks) phosphorylate phosphatidylinositol (4,5) bisphosphate (PIP2), generating PIP3. Though the mechanisms are unclear, PIP3 produced upon GPCR activation attenuates within minutes, indicating a tight temporal regulation. Our data show that subcellular redistributions of G proteins govern this PIP3 attenuation when GPCRs are activated globally, while localized GPCR activation induces sustained subcellular PIP3. Interestingly the observed PIP3 attenuation was Gγ subtype-dependent. Considering distinct cell-tissue-specific Gγ expression profiles, our findings not only demonstrate how the GPCR-induced PIP3 response is regulated depending on the GPCR activity gradient across a cell, but also show how diversely cells respond to spatial and temporal variability of external stimuli.
  2. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2023 ;14 1118744
      Plasma membrane and organelle membranes are home to seven phosphoinositides, an important class of low-abundance anionic signaling lipids that contribute to cellular functions by recruiting cytoplasmic proteins or interacting with the cytoplasmic domains of membrane proteins. Here, we briefly review the functions of three phosphoinositides, PI4P, PI(4,5)P2, and PI(3,4,5)P3, in cellular signaling and exocytosis, focusing on hormone-producing pituitary cells. PI(4,5)P2, acting as a substrate for phospholipase C, plays a key role in the control of pituitary cell functions, including hormone synthesis and secretion. PI(4,5)P2 also acts as a substrate for class I PI3-kinases, leading to the generation of two intracellular messengers, PI(3,4,5)P3 and PI(3,4)P2, which act through their intracellular effectors, including Akt. PI(4,5)P2 can also influence the release of pituitary hormones acting as an intact lipid to regulate ion channel gating and concomitant calcium signaling, as well as the exocytic pathway. Recent findings also show that PI4P is not only a precursor of PI(4,5)P2, but also a key signaling molecule in many cell types, including pituitary cells, where it controls hormone secretion in a PI(4,5)P2-independent manner.
    Keywords:  PI(3,4,5)P3; PI(4,5)P2; PI4P; calcium; hormone secretion; lactotrophs; phosphoinositides
  3. Pediatr Dev Pathol. 2023 Feb 12. 10935266231152370
      Papillary intralymphatic angioendothelioma (PILA) is an extremely rare vascular tumor and its pathogenesis is unknown. Phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase catalytic subunit alpha (PIK3CA)-related overgrowth spectrum (PROS) is a heterogeneous group of disorders caused by mosaicism for activating mutations of PIK3CA and characterized by asymmetric overgrowth, skeletal anomalies, skin lesions, and vascular malformations. An association between PILA and PROS has not been known. We report a case of PILA involving the spleen of a young girl with the clinical and molecular diagnosis of PROS. Sequencing of the patient's germ-line DNA detected a pathogenic PIK3CA variant c.1357G>A in 10.6% of alleles. Splenectomy revealed a 4-cm tumor composed of ectatic lymphatics with intraluminal papillary projections, consistent with PILA. The tumor cells showed immunohistochemical expression of CD31, CD34, ERG, FLI-1, PROX1, and caldesmon, while D2-40 was negative. The latter may suggest that the tumor derived from an endothelial precursor arrested in the final steps of lymphothelial differentiation, in keeping with the known role of the PIK3CA-governed molecular pathway in the progression of vascular progenitors to mature endothelial cells. The data implicates PIK3CA in the pathogenesis of PILA and broadens the spectrum of phenotypic expressions of PROS.
    Keywords:  D2-40; PROX1; papillary intralymphatic angioendothelioma (PILA); posphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase catalytic subunit alpha (PIK3CA)-related overgrowth spectrum (PROS)
  4. Sci Adv. 2023 Feb 15. 9(7): eade8939
      Somatic activating mutations of PIK3CA are associated with development of vascular malformations (VMs). Here, we describe a microfluidic model of PIK3CA-driven VMs consisting of human umbilical vein endothelial cells expressing PIK3CA activating mutations embedded in three-dimensional hydrogels. We observed enlarged, irregular vessel phenotypes and the formation of cyst-like structures consistent with clinical signatures and not previously observed in cell culture models. Pathologic morphologies occurred concomitant with up-regulation of Rac1/p21-activated kinase (PAK), mitogen-activated protein kinase cascades (MEK/ERK), and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTORC1/2) signaling networks. We observed differential effects between alpelisib, a PIK3CA inhibitor, and rapamycin, an mTORC1 inhibitor, in mitigating matrix degradation and network topology. While both were effective in preventing vessel enlargement, rapamycin failed to reduce MEK/ERK and mTORC2 activity and resulted in hyperbranching, while inhibiting PAK, MEK1/2, and mTORC1/2 mitigates abnormal growth and vascular dilation. Collectively, these findings demonstrate an in vitro platform for VMs and establish a role of dysregulated Rac1/PAK and mTORC1/2 signaling in PIK3CA-driven VMs.
  5. Biol Psychiatry. 2023 Feb 14. pii: S0006-3223(23)00082-3. [Epub ahead of print]
      BACKGROUND: Memory deficits are central to many neuropsychiatric diseases. During acquisition of new information memories can become vulnerable to interference, yet mechanisms that underlie interference are unknown.METHODS: We describe a novel transduction pathway that links NMDAR to AKT signaling via the IEG Arc, and evaluate its role in memory. The signaling pathway is validated using biochemical tools and genetic animals, and function is evaluated in assays of synaptic plasticity and behavior. The translational relevance is evaluated in human postmortem brain.
    RESULTS: Arc is dynamically phosphorylated by CaMKII and binds the NMDA receptor (NMDAR) subunits NR2A/NR2B and a previously unstudied PI3K adaptor p55PIK (PIK3R3) in vivo in response to novelty or tetanic stimulation in acute slices. NMDAR-Arc-p55PIK recruits p110α PI3K and mTORC2 to activate AKT. NMDAR-Arc-p55PIK-PI3K-mTORC2-AKT assembly occurs within minutes of exploratory behavior and localizes to sparse synapses throughout hippocampus and cortical regions. Studies using conditional (Nestin-Cre) p55PIK deletion mice indicate that NMDAR-Arc-p55PIK-PI3K-mTORC2-AKT functions to inhibit GSK3 and mediates input-specific metaplasticity that protects potentiated synapses from subsequent depotentiation. p55PIK cKO mice perform normally in multiple behaviors including working-memory and long-term memory tasks but exhibit deficits indicative of increased vulnerability to interference in both short-term and long-term paradigms. The NMDAR-AKT transduction complex is reduced in postmortem brain of individuals with early Alzheimer's disease.
    CONCLUSIONS: A novel function of Arc mediates synapse-specific NMDAR-AKT signaling and metaplasticity that contributes to memory updating and is disrupted in human cognitive disease.
    Keywords:  Alzheimer’s disease; Arc; NMDA receptor; PI3K; interference; metaplasticity
  6. Cancer Res. 2023 Feb 14. pii: CAN-22-2525. [Epub ahead of print]
      Understanding functional interactions between cancer mutations is an attractive strategy for discovering unappreciated cancer pathways and developing new combination therapies to improve personalized treatment. However, distinguishing driver gene pairs from passenger pairs remains challenging. Here, we designed an integrated omics approach to identify driver gene pairs by leveraging genetic interaction analyses of top mutated breast cancer genes and the proteomics interactome data of their encoded proteins. This approach identified that PIK3CA oncogenic gain-of-function (GOF) and CBFB loss-of-function (LOF) mutations cooperate to promote breast tumor progression in both mice and humans. The transcription factor CBFB localized to mitochondria and moonlighted in translating the mitochondrial genome. Mechanistically, CBFB enhanced the binding of mitochondrial mRNAs to TUFM, a mitochondrial translation elongation factor. Independent of mutant PI3K, mitochondrial translation defects caused by CBFB LOF led to multiple metabolic reprogramming events, including defective oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS), the Warburg effect, and autophagy/mitophagy addiction. Furthermore, autophagy and PI3K inhibitors synergistically killed breast cancer cells and impaired the growth of breast tumors, including patient-derived xenografts (PDXs) carrying CBFB LOF and PIK3CA GOF mutations. Thus, our study offers mechanistic insights into the functional interaction between mutant PI3K and mitochondrial translation dysregulation in breast cancer progression and provides a strong preclinical rationale for combining autophagy and PI3K inhibitors in precision medicine for breast cancer.
  7. Sci Rep. 2023 Feb 15. 13(1): 2710
      Resistance to therapy remains a major obstacle in cancer management. Although treatment with hormone and CDK4/6 inhibitors is successful in luminal breast cancer, resistance to these treatments is frequent, highlighting the need for novel therapeutic strategies to delay disease progression and improve patient survival. Here, we assessed the mechanisms of acquired resistance using T47D and MCF-7 tamoxifen- and palbociclib-resistant cell-line variants in culture and as xenografts, and patient-derived cells (PDCs) obtained from sensitive or resistant patient-derived xenografts (PDXs). In these models, we analyzed the effect of specific kinase inhibitors on survival, signaling and cellular aggressiveness. Our results revealed that mTOR inhibition is more effective than PI3K inhibition in overcoming resistance, irrespective of PIK3CA mutation status, by decreasing cell proliferation and tumor growth, as well as reducing cell migration and stemness. Moreover, a combination of mTOR and CDK4/6 inhibitors may prevent pathway reactivation downstream of PI3K, interfering with the survival of resistant cells and consequent tumor escape. In conclusion, we highlight the benefits of incorporating mTOR inhibitors into the current therapy in ER + breast cancer. This alternative therapeutic strategy not only enhances the antitumor response but may also delay the emergence of resistance and tumor recurrence.
  8. Mod Pathol. 2023 Jan 10. pii: S0893-3952(22)04942-0. [Epub ahead of print]36(4): 100056
      Mutations in the PI3K pathway, particularly PIK3CA, were reported to be intimately associated with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) progression and the development of treatment resistance. We profiled PIK3CA and other genes on 166 early-stage TNBC tumors from Singapore for comparison to publicly available TNBC cohorts. These tumors were profiled transcriptionally using a NanoString panel of immune genes and multiplex immunohistochemistry, then manually scored for PD-L1-positivity using 2 clinically relevant clones, SP142 and 22C3. We discovered a higher rate of PIK3CA mutations in our TNBC cohort than in non-Asian cohorts, along with TP53, BRCA1, PTPN11, and MAP3K1 alterations. PIK3CA mutations did not affect overall or recurrence-free survival, and when compared with PIK3CAWT tumors, there were no differences in immune infiltration. Using 2 clinically approved antibodies, PIK3CAmut tumors were associated with PD-L1 negativity. Analysis of comutation frequencies further revealed that PIK3CA mutations tended to be accompanied by MAP kinase pathway mutation. The mechanism and impact of PIK3CA alterations on the TNBC tumor immune microenvironment and PD-L1 positivity warrant further study.
    Keywords:  PD-L1; PIK3CA; Southeast Asian TNBC; triple-negative breast cancer
  9. Mol Cancer Res. 2023 Feb 15. pii: MCR-21-1036. [Epub ahead of print]
      Combinatorial molecular therapy in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) has yielded largely disappointing results in clinical testing to-date as a multitude of adaptive resistance mechanisms is making selection of patients via molecular markers which capture essential, intersecting signaling routes challenging. Here, we report the scaffolding protein connector enhancer of kinase suppressor of Ras 1 (CNKSR1) as mediator of resistance to mitogen-activated protein kinase (MEK) inhibition. MEK inhibition in CNKSR1high cancer cells induces translocation of CNKSR1 to the plasma membrane where the scaffolding protein interacts with and stabilizes the phosphorylated form of AKT. CNKSR1-mediated AKT activation following MEK inhibition was associated with increased cellular p-PRAS40 levels and reduced nuclear translocation and cellular levels of FoxO1, a negative regulator of AKT signaling. In clinical PDAC specimens, high cytoplasmatic CNKSR1 levels correlated with increased cellular phospho-AKT and mTOR levels. Pharmacological co-blockade of AKT and MEK ranked top in induced synergies with MEK inhibition in CNKSR1high pancreas cancer cells among other inhibitor combinations targeting known CNKSR1 signaling. In vivo, CNKSR1high pancreatic tumors treated with AKT and MEK inhibitors showed improved outcome in the combination arm compared to single agent treatment, an effect not observed in CNKSR1low models. Our results identify CNKSR1 as regulator of adaptive resistance to MEK inhibition by promoting crosstalk to AKT signaling via a scaffolding function for the phosphorylated form of AKT. CNSKR1 expression might be a possible molecular marker to enrich patients for future AKT-MEK inhibitor precision medicine studies. Implications: The CNKSR1 scaffold, identified within a RNAi screen as a novel mediator of resistance to MEK inhibition in pancreas cancer, connects MAPK pathway and AKT signaling and may be adopted as a biomarker to select patients for combined MEK AKT blockade.
  10. FEBS Open Bio. 2023 Feb 13.
      Proper regulation of apoptotic cell death is crucial for normal development and homeostasis in multicellular organisms, and is achieved by the balance between pro-apoptotic processes, such as caspase activation, and pro-survival signaling, such as extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) activation. However, the functional interplay between these opposing signaling pathways remains incompletely understood. Here, we identified MAPK/ERK kinase (MEK) 1, a central component of the ERK pathway, as a specific substrate for the executioner caspase-3. During apoptosis, MEK1 is cleaved at an evolutionarily conserved Asp282 residue in the kinase domain, thereby losing its catalytic activity. Gene knockout experiments showed that MEK1 cleavage was mediated by caspase-3, but not by the other executioner caspases, caspase-6 or -7. Following exposure of cells to osmotic stress, elevated ERK activity gradually decreased and this was accompanied by increased cleavage of MEK1. In contrast, expression of a caspase-uncleavable MEK1(D282N) mutant in cells maintained stress-induced ERK activity and thereby attenuated apoptotic cell death. Thus, caspase-3-mediated, proteolytic inhibition of MEK1 sensitizes cells to apoptosis by suppressing pro-survival ERK signaling. Furthermore, we found that a RASopathy-associated MEK1(Y130C) mutation prevented this caspase-3-mediated proteolytic inactivation of MEK1 and efficiently protected cells from stress-induced apoptosis. Our data reveal the functional crosstalk between ERK-mediated cell survival and caspase-mediated cell death pathways, and suggest that its dysregulation by a disease-associated MEK1 mutation is at least partly involved in the pathophysiology of congenital RASopathies.
    Keywords:  Apoptosis; Caspase; ERK; MEK; RASopathy
  11. Nat Cell Biol. 2023 Feb 16.
      Tissue fibrosis and extracellular matrix (ECM) stiffening promote tumour progression. The mechanisms by which ECM regulates its contacting cells have been extensively studied. However, how stiffness influences intercellular communications in the microenvironment for tumour progression remains unknown. Here we report that stiff ECM stimulates the release of exosomes from cancer cells. We delineate a molecular pathway that links stiff ECM to activation of Akt, which in turn promotes GTP loading to Rab8 that drives exosome secretion. We further show that exosomes generated from cells grown on stiff ECM effectively promote tumour growth. Proteomic analysis revealed that the Notch signalling pathway is activated in cells treated with exosomes derived from tumour cells grown on stiff ECM, consistent with our gene expression analysis of liver tissues from patients. Our study reveals a molecular mechanism that regulates exosome secretion and provides insight into how mechanical properties of the ECM control the tumour microenvironment for tumour growth.
  12. Mol Syst Biol. 2023 Feb 13. e11254
      Microscopy and fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) are two of the most important tools for single-cell phenotyping in basic and biomedical research. Microscopy provides high-resolution snapshots of cell morphology and the inner workings of cells, while FACS isolates thousands of cells per second using simple parameters, such as the intensity of fluorescent protein labels. Recent technologies are now combining both methods to enable the fast isolation of cells with microscopic phenotypes of interest, thereby bridging a long-standing gap in the life sciences. In this Commentary, we discuss the technical advancements made by image-enabled cell sorting and highlight novel experimental strategies in functional genomics and single-cell research.
  13. Cell Death Dis. 2023 Feb 13. 14(2): 116
      FKBP51 plays a relevant role in sustaining cancer cells, particularly melanoma. This cochaperone participates in several signaling pathways. FKBP51 forms a complex with Akt and PHLPP, which is reported to dephosphorylate Akt. Given the recent discovery of a spliced FKBP51 isoform, in this paper, we interrogate the canonical and spliced isoforms in regulation of Akt activation. We show that the TPR domain of FKBP51 mediates Akt ubiquitination at K63, which is an essential step for Akt activation. The spliced FKBP51, lacking such domain, cannot link K63-Ub residues to Akt. Unexpectedly, PHLPP silencing does not foster phosphorylation of Akt, and its overexpression even induces phosphorylation of Akt. PHLPP stabilizes levels of E3-ubiquitin ligase TRAF6 and supports K63-ubiquitination of Akt. The interactome profile of FKBP51 from melanoma cells highlights a relevant role for PHLPP in improving oncogenic hallmarks, particularly, cell proliferation.
  14. bioRxiv. 2023 Feb 11. pii: 2023.02.10.527869. [Epub ahead of print]
      Glucocorticoids, including dexamethasone and prednisone, are key components of therapy for B-lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) that work through the glucocorticoid receptor (GR). However, glucocorticoids are not effective for all patients, leading to poor outcomes, and their use is hampered by undesirable toxic effects. We have shown that inhibition of PIK3δ, the leukocyte-restricted delta isoform of the catalytic subunit of phosphoinositide 3-kinase, is a promising way to specifically enhance the effect of glucocorticoids in B-ALL, with the potential to improve outcomes without increasing toxicities. Here, we show that the PI3Kδ inhibitor idelalisib potentiates both prednisolone and dexamethasone in B-ALL cell lines and most primary patient specimens, particularly at sub-saturating doses of glucocorticoids. Potentiation is explained in part by a widespread enhancement of glucocorticoid-induced gene regulation, including of effector genes that drive B-ALL cell death. Idelalisib causes a reduction in phosphorylation of GR at S203 and S226, and ablation of these phospho-acceptor sites enhances glucocorticoid potency. Because phosphorylation of S226 inhibits GR DNA binding, we propose that PI3Kδ inhibition improves glucocorticoid efficacy in B-ALL in part by decreasing inhibitory GR phosphorylation and enhancing DNA binding and downstream gene regulation. These studies provide a pre-clinical and mechanistic rationale for clinical application of PI3Kδ inhibitors in combination with glucocorticoids for treatment of B-ALL.KEY POINTS: Idelalisib potentiates glucocorticoids in B-ALL in part by reducing GR phosphorylation and enhancing gene regulationInhibition of tissue-restricted PI3Kδ likely allows durable potentiation expressly in B-ALL, even as the glucocorticoid is cleared.
  15. Mol Cell Proteomics. 2023 Feb 12. pii: S1535-9476(23)00017-8. [Epub ahead of print] 100508
      White adipose tissue is deposited mainly as subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT), often associated with metabolic protection, and abdominal/visceral adipose tissue (VAT), which contributes to metabolic disease. To investigate the molecular underpinnings of these differences, we conducted comprehensive proteomics profiling of whole tissue and isolated adipocytes from these two depots across two diets from C57Bl/6J mice. The adipocyte proteomes from lean mice were highly conserved between depots, with the major depot-specific differences encoded by just 3% of the proteome. Adipocytes from SAT (SAdi) were enriched in pathways related to mitochondrial complex I and beiging, whereas visceral adipocytes (VAdi) were enriched in structural proteins and positive regulators of mTOR presumably to promote nutrient storage and cellular expansion. This indicates that SAdi are geared toward higher catabolic activity, while VAdi are more suited for lipid storage. By comparing adipocytes from mice fed chow or western diet (WD), we define a core adaptive proteomics signature consisting of increased extracellular matrix proteins and decreased fatty acid metabolism and mitochondrial Coenzyme Q biosynthesis. Relative to SAdi, VAdi displayed greater changes with WD including a pronounced decrease in mitochondrial proteins concomitant with upregulation of apoptotic signaling and decreased mitophagy, indicating pervasive mitochondrial stress. Furthermore, WD caused a reduction in lipid handling and glucose uptake pathways particularly in VAdi, consistent with adipocyte de-differentiation. By overlaying the proteomics changes with diet in whole adipose tissue and isolated adipocytes, we uncovered concordance between adipocytes and tissue only in the VAT, indicating a unique tissue-specific adaptation to sustained WD in SAT. Finally, an in-depth comparison of isolated adipocytes and 3T3-L1 proteomes revealed a high degree of overlap, supporting the utility of the 3T3-L1 adipocyte model. These deep proteomes provide an invaluable resource highlighting differences between white adipose depots that may fine-tune their unique functions and adaptation to an obesogenic environment.
  16. Semin Cancer Biol. 2023 Feb 09. pii: S1044-579X(23)00016-0. [Epub ahead of print]
      Stem cells have self-renewal capacities and the ability to give rise to differentiated cells thereby sustaining tissues during homeostasis and injury. This structural hierarchy extends to tumours which harbor stem-like cells deemed cancer stem cells that propagate the tumour and drive metastasis and relapse. The process of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), which plays an important role in development and cancer cell migration, was shown to be correlated with stemness in both homeostasis and cancer indicating that stemness can be acquired and is not necessarily an intrinsic trait. Nowadays it is experimentally proven that the activation of an EMT program does not necessarily drive cells towards a fully mesenchymal phenotype but rather to hybrid E/M states. This review offers the latest advances in connecting the EMT status and stem-cell state of both non-transformed and cancer cells. Recent literature clearly shows that hybrid EMT states have a higher probability of acquiring stem cell traits. The position of a cell along the EMT-axis which coincides with a stem cell-like state is known as the stemness window. We show how the original EMT-state of a cell dictates the EMT/MET inducing programmes required to reach stemness. Lastly we present the mechanism of stemness regulation and the regulatory feedback loops which position cells at a certain EMT state along the EMT axis.
    Keywords:  EMT-TF; Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition; adult stem cells; cancer stem cells; hybrid EMT
  17. Nat Biotechnol. 2023 Feb 16.
      Transferring annotations of single-cell-, spatial- and multi-omics data is often challenging owing both to technical limitations, such as low spatial resolution or high dropout fraction, and to biological variations, such as continuous spectra of cell states. Based on the concept that these data are often best described as continuous mixtures of cells or molecules, we present a computational framework for the transfer of annotations to cells and their combinations (TACCO), which consists of an optimal transport model extended with different wrappers to annotate a wide variety of data. We apply TACCO to identify cell types and states, decipher spatiomolecular tissue structure at the cell and molecular level and resolve differentiation trajectories using synthetic and biological datasets. While matching or exceeding the accuracy of specialized tools for the individual tasks, TACCO reduces the computational requirements by up to an order of magnitude and scales to larger datasets (for example, considering the runtime of annotation transfer for 1 M simulated dropout observations).
  18. Bio Protoc. 2023 Jan 20. pii: e4591. [Epub ahead of print]13(2):
      Genome-wide CRISPR-based screening is a powerful tool in forward genetics, enabling biologic discovery by linking a desired phenotype to a specific genetic perturbation. However, hits from a genome-wide screen require individual validation to reproduce and accurately quantify their effects outside of a pooled experiment. Here, we describe a step-by-step protocol to rapidly assess the effects of individual sgRNAs from CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) and CRISPR activation (CRISPRa) systems. All steps, including cloning, lentivirus generation, cell transduction, and phenotypic readout, can be performed entirely in 96-well plates. The system is highly flexible in both cell type and selection system, requiring only that the phenotype(s) of interest be read out via flow cytometry. We expect that this protocol will provide researchers with a rapid way to sift through potential screening hits, and prioritize them for deeper analysis in more complex in vitro or even in vivo systems. Graphical abstract.
    Keywords:  CRISPRi; Flow cytometry; Forward genetics; Hit validation
  19. Genome Res. 2023 Feb 15. pii: gr.276655.122. [Epub ahead of print]
      Here we present advancements in single-cell combinatorial indexed ATAC-seq (sciATAC) to measure chromatin accessibility that leverage nanowell chips to achieve atlas-scale cell throughput (>105) at low cost. The platform leverages the core of the sciATAC workflow where multiple indexed tagmentation reactions are performed, followed by pooling and distribution to a second set of reaction wells for PCR-based indexing. In this work, we instead leverage a chip containing 5,184 nanowells as the PCR stage of indexing, enabling a 52-fold improvement in scale and reduction in per-cell preparation costs. We detail three variants that balance cell throughput and depth of coverage and apply these methods to banked mouse brain tissue, producing maps of cell types as well as neuronal subtypes that includes integration with exiting scATAC and scRNA-seq datasets. Our optimized workflow achieves a high fraction of reads that fall within called peaks (>80%) and low cell doublet rates. The high cell coverage technique produces high unique reads per cell, while retaining high enrichment for open chromatin regions, enabling the assessment of >70,000 unique accessible on average for each cell profiled. When compared to current methods in the field, our technique provides similar or superior per-cell information with very low levels of cell-to-cell crosstalk, and achieves this at a cost point much lower than existing assays.
  20. bioRxiv. 2023 Feb 10. pii: 2023.02.09.527940. [Epub ahead of print]
      The ideal technology for directly investigating the relationship between genotype and phenotype would analyze both RNA and DNA genome-wide and with single-cell resolution. However, existing tools lack the throughput required for comprehensive analysis of complex tumors and tissues. We introduce a highly scalable method for jointly profiling DNA and expression following nucleosome depletion (DEFND-seq). In DEFND-seq, nuclei are nucleosome-depleted, tagmented, and separated into individual droplets for mRNA and genomic DNA barcoding. Once nuclei have been depleted of nucleosomes, subsequent steps can be performed using the widely available 10x Genomics droplet microfluidic technology and commercial kits without experimental modification. We demonstrate the production of high-complexity mRNA and gDNA sequencing libraries from thousands of individual nuclei from both cell lines and archived surgical specimens for associating gene expression phenotypes with both copy number and single nucleotide variants.
  21. Mol Ther. 2023 Feb 14. pii: S1525-0016(23)00074-6. [Epub ahead of print]
      While a number of methods exist to investigate CRISPR off-target (OT) editing, few have been compared head-to-head in primary cells following clinically relevant editing processes. Therefore, we compared in silico tools (COSMID, CCTop, and Cas-OFFinder) and empirical methods (CHANGE-Seq, CIRCLE-Seq, DISCOVER-Seq, GUIDE-Seq, and SITE-Seq) following ex vivo hematopoietic stem and progenitor cell (HSPC) editing. We performed editing using 11 different gRNAs complexed with Cas9 protein (high-fidelity (HiFi) or wild-type versions), then performed targeted next-generation sequencing of nominated OT sites identified by in silico and empirical methods. We identified an average of <1 OT site per gRNA and all OT sites generated using HiFi Cas9 and a 20nt gRNA were identified by all OT detection methods with the exception of SITE-seq. This resulted in high sensitivity for the majority of OT nomination tools and COSMID, DISCOVER-Seq, and GUIDE-Seq attained the highest positive predictive value. We found that empirical methods did not identify off-target sites that were not also identified by bioinformatic methods. This study supports that refined bioinformatic algorithms could be developed that maintain both high sensitivity and positive predictive value, thereby enabling more efficient identification of potential OT sites without compromising a thorough examination for any given gRNA.
  22. bioRxiv. 2023 Feb 03. pii: 2023.02.03.526939. [Epub ahead of print]
      Analysis of single-cell datasets generated from diverse organisms offers unprecedented opportunities to unravel fundamental evolutionary processes of conservation and diversification of cell types. However, inter-species genomic differences limit the joint analysis of crossspecies datasets to orthologous genes. Here, we present SATURN, a deep learning method for learning universal cell embeddings that encodes genes' biological properties using protein language models. By coupling protein embeddings from language models with RNA expression, SATURN integrates datasets profiled from different species regardless of their genomic similarity. SATURN has a unique ability to detect functionally related genes co-expressed across species, redefining differential expression for cross-species analysis. We apply SATURN to three species whole-organism atlases and frog and zebrafish embryogenesis datasets. We show that cell embeddings learnt in SATURN can be effectively used to transfer annotations across species and identify both homologous and species-specific cell types, even across evolutionarily remote species. Finally, we use SATURN to reannotate the five species Cell Atlas of Human Trabecular Meshwork and Aqueous Outflow Structures and find evidence of potentially divergent functions between glaucoma associated genes in humans and other species.
  23. Methods Mol Biol. 2023 Feb 16.
      IQCELL is a platform that infers Boolean gene regulatory networks from single-cell RNA sequencing data. Boolean networks can be simulated under normal and perturbed conditions. In this chapter, we provide a detailed guideline for implementing IQCELL from a raw dataset. The steps include processing data, inferring informative genes, inferring gene regulatory network, and simulating the resulted network under normal and perturbed conditions.
    Keywords:  Boolean GRNs; Causal inference; Developmental trajectory; Gene perturbations; Gene regulation; scRNA-seq
  24. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2023 Feb 21. 120(8): e2213272120
      Macropinocytosis is an actin-dependent mode of nonselective endocytosis that mediates the uptake of extracellular fluid-phase cargoes. It is now well recognized that tumor cells exploit macropinocytosis to internalize macromolecules that can be catabolized and used to support cell growth and proliferation under nutrient-limiting conditions. Therefore, the identification of molecular mechanisms that control macropinocytosis is fundamental to the understanding of the metabolic adaptive landscape of tumor cells. Here, we report that the acetyl-CoA-producing enzyme, ATP citrate lyase (ACLY), is a key regulator of macropinocytosis and describes a heretofore-unappreciated association of ACLY with the actin cytoskeleton. The cytoskeletal tethering of ACLY is required for the spatially defined acetylation of heterodimeric actin capping protein, which we identify as an essential mediator of the actin remodeling events that drive membrane ruffling and macropinocytosis. Furthermore, we identify a requirement for mitochondrial-derived citrate, an ACLY substrate, for macropinocytosis, and show that mitochondria traffic to cell periphery regions juxtaposed to plasma membrane ruffles. Collectively, these findings establish a mode of metabolite compartmentalization that supports the spatiotemporal modulation of membrane-cytoskeletal interactions required for macropinocytosis by coupling regional acetyl-CoA availability with dynamic protein acetylation.
    Keywords:  actin cytoskeleton; macropinocytosis; membrane ruffling
  25. Sci Rep. 2023 Feb 15. 13(1): 2690
      On-target integration of large cassettes via homology-directed repair (HDR) has several applications. However, the HDR-mediated targeted knock-in suffered from low efficiency. In this study, we made several large plasmids (12.1-13.4 kb) which included the CRISPR/Cas9 system along with a puromycin transgene as part of the large DNA donor (5.3-7.1 kb insertion cassettes) and used them to evaluate their targeted integration efficiency into a transgenic murine embryonic fibroblast (MEF) cell line carrying a single copy of a Venus transgene. We established a detection assay by which HDR events could be discriminated from the error-prone non-homologous end-joining (NHEJ) events. Improving the plasmid quality could considerably leverage the cell toxicity impediment of large plasmids. The use of the TILD (targeted integration with linearized dsDNA) cassettes did not improve the HDR rate compared to the circular plasmids. However, the direct inclusion of nocodazole into the electroporation solution significantly improved the HDR rate. Also, simultaneous delivery of RNase HII and the donor plasmids into the electroporated cells considerably improved the HDR events. In conclusion, the results of this study showed that using cell synchronization reagents in the electroporation medium can efficiently induce HDR rate in the mammalian genome.
  26. Sci Rep. 2023 Feb 14. 13(1): 2652
      Cells detect changes in their environment and generate responses, often involving changes in gene expression. In this paper we use information theory and a simple transcription model to analyze whether the resulting gene expression serves to identify extracellular stimuli and assess their intensity when they are encoded in the amplitude, duration or frequency of pulses of a transcription factor's nuclear concentration (or activation state). We find, for all cases, that about three ranges of input strengths can be distinguished and that maximum information transmission occurs for fast and high activation threshold promoters. The three input modulation modes differ in the sensitivity to changes in the promoters parameters. Frequency modulation is the most sensitive and duration modulation, the least. This is key for signal identification: there are promoter parameters that yield a relatively high information transmission for duration or amplitude modulation and a much smaller value for frequency modulation. The reverse situation cannot be found with a single promoter transcription model. Thus, pulses of transcription factors can selectively activate the "frequency-tuned" promoter while prolonged nuclear accumulation would activate promoters of all three modes simultaneously. Frequency modulation is therefore highly selective and better suited than the other encoding modes for signal identification without requiring other mediators of the transduction process.
  27. bioRxiv. 2023 Jan 31. pii: 2023.01.29.526143. [Epub ahead of print]
      Here we described PerturbSci-Kinetics , a novel combinatorial indexing method for capturing three-layer single-cell readout ( i . e ., whole transcriptome, nascent transcriptome, sgRNA identities) across hundreds of genetic perturbations. Through PerturbSci-Kinetics profiling of pooled CRISPR screens targeting a variety of biological processes, we were able to decipher the complexity of RNA regulations at multiple levels ( e . g ., synthesis, processing, degradation), and revealed key regulators involved in miRNA and mitochondrial RNA processing pathways. Our technique opens up the possibility of systematically decoding the genome-wide regulatory network underlying RNA temporal dynamics at scale and cost-effectively.
  28. Autophagy. 2023 Feb 13.
      Mitophagy regulates cancer stem cell (CSC) populations affecting tumorigenicity and malignancy in various cancer types. Here, we report that cisplatin treatment led to the activation of higher mitophagy through regulating CLU (clusterin) levels in oral CSCs. Moreover, both the gain-of-function and loss-of-function of CLU indicated its mitophagy-specific role in clearing damaged mitochondria. CLU also regulates mitochondrial fission by activating the Ser/Thr kinase AKT, which triggered phosphorylation of DNM1L/DRP1 at the serine 616 residue initiating mitochondrial fission. More importantly, we also demonstrated that CLU-mediated mitophagy positively regulates oral CSCs through mitophagic degradation of MSX2 (msh homeobox 2), preventing its nuclear translocation from suppressing SOX2 activity and subsequent inhibition of cancer stemness and self-renewal ability. However, CLU knockdown disturbed mitochondrial metabolism generating excessive mitochondrial superoxide, which improves the sensitivity to cisplatin in oral CSCs. Notably, our results showed that CLU-mediated cytoprotection relies on SOX2 expression. SOX2 inhibition through genetic (shSOX2) and pharmacological (KRX-0401) strategies reverses CLU-mediated cytoprotection, sensitizing oral CSCs towards cisplatin-mediated cell death.
    Keywords:  Cancer stem cells; MSX2; SOX2; clusterin; mitophagy
  29. bioRxiv. 2023 Feb 04. pii: 2023.01.31.526429. [Epub ahead of print]
      Colorectal cancer (CRC) develops in part through the deregulation of different signaling pathways, including activation of the WNT/β-catenin and PI3K/AKT pathways. Enhancer of zeste homolog 2 (EZH2) is a lysine methyltransferase that is involved in regulating stem cell development and differentiation and is overexpressed in CRC. However, depending on the study EZH2 has been found to be both positively and negatively correlated with the survival of CRC patients suggesting that EZH2's role in CRC may be context specific. In this study, we explored how PI3K/AKT activation alters EZH2's role in CRC. We found that activation of AKT by PTEN knockdown or by hydrogen peroxide treatment induced EZH2 phosphorylation at serine 21. Phosphorylation of EZH2 resulted in EZH2-mediated methylation of β-catenin and an associated increased interaction between β-catenin, TCF1, and RNA polymerase II. AKT activation increased β-catenin's enrichment across the genome and EZH2 inhibition reduced this enrichment by reducing the methylation of β-catenin. Furthermore, PTEN knockdown increased the expression of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT)-related genes, and somewhat unexpectedly EZH2 inhibition further increased the expression of these genes. Consistent with these findings, EZH2 inhibition enhanced the migratory phenotype of PTEN knockdown cells. Overall, we demonstrated that EZH2 modulates AKT-induced changes in gene expression through the AKT/EZH2/ β-catenin axis in CRC with active PI3K/AKT signaling. Therefore, it is important to consider the use of EZH2 inhibitors in CRC with caution as these inhibitors will inhibit EZH2-mediated methylation of histone and non-histone targets such as β-catenin, which can have tumor-promoting effects.
  30. Nat Biotechnol. 2023 Feb 16.
      Most short sequences can be precisely written into a selected genomic target using prime editing; however, it remains unclear what factors govern insertion. We design a library of 3,604 sequences of various lengths and measure the frequency of their insertion into four genomic sites in three human cell lines, using different prime editor systems in varying DNA repair contexts. We find that length, nucleotide composition and secondary structure of the insertion sequence all affect insertion rates. We also discover that the 3' flap nucleases TREX1 and TREX2 suppress the insertion of longer sequences. Combining the sequence and repair features into a machine learning model, we can predict relative frequency of insertions into a site with R = 0.70. Finally, we demonstrate how our accurate prediction and user-friendly software help choose codon variants of common fusion tags that insert at high efficiency, and provide a catalog of empirically determined insertion rates for over a hundred useful sequences.