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Single cell proteomics of tumor compartments identifies differential kinase activities defining sensitivity to mTOR-PI3-kinase inhibition

By Nezihi Murat Karabacak, Yu Zheng, Taronish D. Dubash, Risa Burr, Douglas S. Micalizzi, Ben S. Wittner, Devon Wiley, Valentine Comaills, Erin Emmons, Kira Niederhoffer, Uyen Ho, Linda Nieman, Wilhelm Haas, Shannon L. Stott, David T. Ting, David T. Miyamoto, Daniel A Haber, Mehmet Toner, Shyamala Maheswaran

Posted 08 Jan 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.01.06.425147

Cancer therapy often results in heterogeneous responses in different metastatic lesions in the same patient. Inter- and intra-tumor heterogeneity in proteomic signaling within the various tumor compartments and its impact on therapy are not well characterized due to the limited sensitivity of single cell proteomic approaches. To overcome this barrier, we applied single cell mass cytometry with a customized 29-antibody panel [against cell states, receptor tyrosine kinases (RTK) and phosphoinositide 3-kinase/mammalian target of rapamycin (PI3K/mTOR)-, mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-, and cytokine-signaling] to PTEN-deleted orthotopic prostate cancer xenograft models to measure the evolution of kinase activities in different tumor compartments during metastasis and upon drug treatment. Compared with primary tumors and circulating tumor cells (CTCs), bone metastases but not lung and liver metastases exhibited elevated PI3K/mTOR signaling and RTKs including c-Met protein, which, when suppressed, impaired tumor growth in the bone. Intra-tumoral heterogeneity within tumor compartments also arises from highly proliferative EpCAMhigh epithelial cells with increased PI3K and mTOR kinase activities co-existing with poorly proliferating EpCAMlow mesenchymal populations with reduced kinase activities, findings recapitulated in epithelial and mesenchymal CTC populations in metastatic prostate and breast cancer patients. Increased kinase activity in EpCAMhigh cells rendered them more sensitive to PI3K/mTOR inhibition and drug resistant EpCAMlow populations with reduced kinase activity emerged over time. Taken together, single cell proteomics identified microenvironment- and cell state-dependent activation of kinase networks creating heterogeneity and differential drug sensitivity among and within tumor populations across different sites, defining a new paradigm of drug responses to kinase inhibitors.

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