Tumour cells evade immune surveillance by upregulating the surface expression of programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1), which interacts with programmed death-1 (PD-1) receptor on T cells to elicit the immune checkpoint response. Anti-PD-1 antibodies have shown remarkable promise in treating tumours, including metastatic melanoma. However, the patient response rate is low. A better understanding of PD-L1-mediated immune evasion is needed to predict patient response and improve treatment efficacy. Here we report that metastatic melanomas release extracellular vesicles, mostly in the form of exosomes, that carry PD-L1 on their surface. Stimulation with interferon-γ (IFN-γ) increases the amount of PD-L1 on these vesicles, which suppresses the function of CD8 T cells and facilitates tumour growth. In patients with metastatic melanoma, the level of circulating exosomal PD-L1 positively correlates with that of IFN-γ, and varies during the course of anti-PD-1 therapy. The magnitudes of the increase in circulating exosomal PD-L1 during early stages of treatment, as an indicator of the adaptive response of the tumour cells to T cell reinvigoration, stratifies clinical responders from non-responders. Our study unveils a mechanism by which tumour cells systemically suppress the immune system, and provides a rationale for the application of exosomal PD-L1 as a predictor for anti-PD-1 therapy.
Regulated transcription controls the diversity, developmental pathways and spatial organization of the hundreds of cell types that make up a mammal. Using single-molecule cDNA sequencing, we mapped transcription start sites (TSSs) and their usage in human and mouse primary cells, cell lines and tissues to produce a comprehensive overview of mammalian gene expression across the human body. We find that few genes are truly ‘housekeeping’, whereas many mammalian promoters are composite entities composed of several closely separated TSSs, with independent cell-type-specific expression profiles. TSSs specific to different cell types evolve at different rates, whereas promoters of broadly expressed genes are the most conserved. Promoter-based expression analysis reveals key transcription factors defining cell states and links them to binding-site motifs. The functions of identified novel transcripts can be predicted by coexpression and sample ontology enrichment analyses. The functional annotation of the mammalian genome 5 (FANTOM5) project provides comprehensive expression profiles and functional annotation of mammalian cell-type-specific transcriptomes with wide applications in biomedical research.
SUMMARY Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) produce durable responses in some melanoma patients, but many patients derive no clinical benefit, and the molecular underpinnings of such resistance remain elusive. Here, we leveraged single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) from 33 melanoma tumors and computational analyses to interrogate malignant cell states that promote immune evasion. We identified a resistance program expressed by malignant cells that is associated with T cell exclusion and immune evasion. The program is expressed prior to immunotherapy, characterizes cold niches in situ, and predicts clinical responses to anti-PD-1 therapy in an independent cohort of 112 melanoma patients. CDK4/6-inhibition represses this program in individual malignant cells, induces senescence, and reduces melanoma tumor outgrowth in mouse models in vivo when given in combination with immunotherapy. Our study provides a high-resolution landscape of ICI-resistant cell states, identifies clinically predictive signatures, and suggests new therapeutic strategies to overcome immunotherapy resistance.
The molecular biology of metastatic potential in melanoma has been studied many times previously and changes in the expression of many genes have been linked to metastatic behaviour. What is lacking is a systematic characterization of the regulatory relationships between genes whose expression is related to metastatic potential. Such a characterization would produce a molecular taxonomy for melanoma which could feasibly be used to identify epigenetic mechanisms behind changes in metastatic behaviour. To achieve this we carried out three separate DNA microarray analyses on a total of 86 cultures of melanoma. Significantly, multiple testing correction revealed that previous reports describing correlations of gene expression with activating mutations in BRAF or NRAS were incorrect and that no gene expression patterns correlate with the mutation status of these MAPK pathway components. Instead, we identified three different sample cohorts (A, B and C) and found that these cohorts represent melanoma groups of differing metastatic potential. Cohorts A and B were susceptible to transforming growth factor-beta (TGFbeta)-mediated inhibition of proliferation and had low motility. Cohort C was resistant to TGFbeta and demonstrated high motility. Meta-analysis of the data against previous studies linking gene expression and phenotype confirmed that cohorts A and C represent transcription signatures of weakly and strongly metastatic melanomas, respectively. Gene expression co-regulation suggested that signalling via TGFbeta-type and Wnt/beta-catenin pathways underwent considerable change between cohorts. These results suggest a model for the transition from weakly to strongly metastatic melanomas in which TGFbeta-type signalling upregulates genes expressing vasculogenic/extracellular matrix remodelling factors and Wnt signal inhibitors, coinciding with a downregulation of genes downstream of Wnt signalling.
Systematic efforts are underway to decipher the genetic changes associated with tumor initiation and progression. However, widespread clinical application of this information is hampered by an inability to identify critical genetic events across the spectrum of human tumors with adequate sensitivity and scalability. Here, we have adapted high-throughput genotyping to query 238 known oncogene mutations across 1,000 human tumor samples. This approach established robust mutation distributions spanning 17 cancer types. Of 17 oncogenes analyzed, we found 14 to be mutated at least once, and 298 (30%) samples carried at least one mutation. Moreover, we identified previously unrecognized oncogene mutations in several tumor types and observed an unexpectedly high number of co-occurring mutations. These results offer a new dimension in tumor genetics, where mutations involving multiple cancer genes may be interrogated simultaneously and in 'real time' to guide cancer classification and rational therapeutic intervention.
Although it is generally accepted that cellular differentiation requires changes to transcriptional networks, dynamic regulation of promoters and enhancers at specific sets of genes has not been previously studied en masse. Exploiting the fact that active promoters and enhancers are transcribed, we simultaneously measured their activity in 19 human and 14 mouse time courses covering a wide range of cell types and biological stimuli. Enhancer RNAs, then messenger RNAs encoding transcription factors, dominated the earliest responses. Binding sites for key lineage transcription factors were simultaneously overrepresented in enhancers and promoters active in each cellular system. Our data support a highly generalizable model in which enhancer transcription is the earliest event in successive waves of transcriptional change during cellular differentiation or activation.
Summary Despite success with BRAFV600E–inhibitors, therapeutic responses in patients with metastatic melanoma are short-lived because of the acquisition of drug resistance. We identified a mechanism of intrinsic multi-drug resistance based on the survival of a tumor cell subpopulation. Treatment with various drugs, including cisplatin and vemurafenib, uniformly leads to enrichment of slow-cycling, long-term tumor-maintaining melanoma cells expressing the H3K4-demethylase JARID1B/KDM5B/PLU-1. Proteome-profiling revealed an upregulation in enzymes of mitochondrial oxidative-ATP-synthesis (OXPHOS) in this subpopulation. Inhibition of mitochondrial respiration blocked the emergence of the JARID1Bhigh subpopulation and sensitized melanoma cells to therapy, independent of their genotype. Our findings support a two-tiered approach combining anti-cancer agents that eliminate rapidly proliferating melanoma cells with inhibitors of the drug-resistant slow-cycling subpopulation.
MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short non-coding RNAs with key roles in cellular regulation. As part of the fifth edition of the Functional Annotation of Mammalian Genome (FANTOM5) project, we created an integrated expression atlas of miRNAs and their promoters by deep-sequencing 492 short RNA (sRNA) libraries, with matching Cap Analysis Gene Expression (CAGE) data, from 396 human and 47 mouse RNA samples. Promoters were identified for 1,357 human and 804 mouse miRNAs and showed strong sequence conservation between species. We also found that primary and mature miRNA expression levels were correlated, allowing us to use the primary miRNA measurements as a proxy for mature miRNA levels in a total of 1,829 human and 1,029 mouse CAGE libraries. We thus provide a broad atlas of miRNA expression and promoters in primary mammalian cells, establishing a foundation for detailed analysis of miRNA expression patterns and transcriptional control regions.
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