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Systematic identification of regulators of antibody-drug conjugate toxicity using CRISPR-Cas9 screens

By C Kimberly Tsui, Robyn M. Barfield, Curt R. Fischer, David W Morgens, Amy Li, Benjamin A. H. Smith, Carolyn R Bertozzi, David Rabuka, Michael C Bassik

Posted 03 Mar 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/557454

Antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs) selectively deliver highly toxic chemotherapeutic agents to target antigen-expressing cells and have become an important cancer treatment in recent years. However, the molecular mechanisms by which ADCs are internalized and activated within cells remain unclear. Here we use CRISPR-Cas9 screens to identify genes that control the toxicity of ADCs. Our results demonstrate critical roles for a range of known and novel endolysosomal trafficking regulators in ADC toxicity. We identify and characterize C18orf8/RMC1 as a regulator of ADC toxicity through its role in endosomal maturation. Through comparative analysis of CRISPR screens with ADCs bearing a noncleavable linker versus a cleavable valine-citrulline (VC) linker, we show that a subset of late endosomal and lysosomal regulators are selectively essential for toxicity of noncleavable linker ADCs. We further show that cleavable VC linkers are rapidly processed upon internalization and therefore surprisingly appear to bypass the requirement of lysosomal delivery. Lastly, we show that inhibition of sialic acid biosynthesis sensitizes cells to ADC treatment by increasing the rate of ADC internalization. This sensitization was observed using several ADCs targeting different antigens in diverse cancer cell types, including the FDA-approved ADC trastuzumab emtansine (T-DM1) in Her2-positive breast cancer cells. Together, these results reveal novel regulators of endolysosomal trafficking, provide important insights to guide future ADC design, and identify candidate combination therapy targets as well as potential mechanisms of ADC resistance.

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