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Nature
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Cell research
Cancer discovery
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The Lancet. Neurology
The Lancet. Global health
Tissue-specific transcription reprogramming promotes liver metastasis of colorectal cancer

Metastasis, the development of secondary malignant growths at a distance from a primary tumor, is the cause of death for 90% of cancer patients, but little is known about how metastatic cancer cells adapt to and colonize new tissue environments. Here, using clinical samples, patient-derived xenograft (PDX) samples, PDX cells, and primary/metastatic cell lines, we discovered that liver metastatic colorectal cancer (CRC) cells lose their colon-specific gene transcription program yet gain a liver-specific gene transcription program. We showed that this transcription reprogramming is driven by a reshaped epigenetic landscape of both typical enhancers and super-enhancers. Further, we identified that the liver-specific transcription factors FOXA2 and HNF1A can bind to the gained enhancers and activate the liver-specific gene transcription, thereby driving CRC liver metastasis. Importantly, similar transcription reprogramming can be observed in multiple cancer types. Our data suggest that reprogrammed tissue-specific transcription promotes metastasis and should be targeted therapeutically.

Cell research

Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Sequential fate-switches in stem-like cells drive the tumorigenic trajectory from human neural stem cells to malignant glioma

Glioblastoma (GBM) is an incurable and highly heterogeneous brain tumor, originating from human neural stem/progenitor cells (hNSCs/hNPCs) years ahead of diagnosis. Despite extensive efforts to characterize hNSCs and end-stage GBM at bulk and single-cell levels, the de novo gliomagenic path from hNSCs is largely unknown due to technical difficulties in early-stage sampling and preclinical modeling. Here, we established two highly penetrant hNSC-derived malignant glioma models, which resemble the histopathology and transcriptional heterogeneity of human GBM. Integrating time-series analyses of whole-exome sequencing, bulk and single-cell RNA-seq, we reconstructed gliomagenic trajectories, and identified a persistent NSC-like population at all stages of tumorigenesis. Through trajectory analyses and lineage tracing, we showed that tumor progression is primarily driven by multi-step transcriptional reprogramming and fate-switches in the NSC-like cells, which sequentially generate malignant heterogeneity and induce tumor phenotype transitions. We further uncovered stage-specific oncogenic cascades, and among the candidate genes we functionally validated C1QL1 as a new glioma-promoting factor. Importantly, the neurogenic-to-gliogenic switch in NSC-like cells marks an early stage characterized by a burst of oncogenic alterations, during which transient AP-1 inhibition is sufficient to inhibit gliomagenesis. Together, our results reveal previously undercharacterized molecular dynamics and fate choices driving de novo gliomagenesis from hNSCs, and provide a blueprint for potential early-stage treatment/diagnosis for GBM.

Cell research

West China Hospital, SCU