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Therapy-induced transdifferentiation promotes glioma growth independent of EGFR signaling

By Hwanhee Oh, Inah Hwang, Lingxiang Wu, Dongqing Cao, Jun Yao, Haoqiang Ying, Jian Yi Li, Yu Yao, Baoli Hu, Qianghu Wang, Hongwu Zheng, Jihye Paik

Posted 03 Jun 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.02.130948

Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is frequently amplified, mutated and overexpressed in malignant gliomas. Yet the EGFR-targeted therapies have thus far produced only marginal clinical response, and the underlying mechanism remains poorly understood. Through analyses of an inducible oncogenic EGFR-driven glioma mouse model system, our current study reveals a small population of glioma cells that can evade therapy-initiated apoptosis and potentiate relapse development by adopting a mesenchymal-like phenotypic state that no longer depends on oncogenic EGFR signaling. Transcriptome analyses of proximal and distal treatment responses further identify TGFβ/YAP/Slug signaling cascade activation as major regulatory mechanism that promotes therapy-induced glioma mesenchymal lineage transdifferentiation. Following anti-EGFR treatment, the TGFβ secreted from the stressed glioma cells acts to promote YAP nuclear translocation and activation, which subsequently stimulates upregulation of the pro-mesenchymal transcriptional factor Slug and then glioma lineage transdifferentiation towards a stable therapy-refractory state. Blockade of this adaptive response through enforced dominant negative YAP expression significantly delayed anti-EGFR relapse and significantly prolonged animal survival. Together, our findings shed new insight into EGFR-targeted therapy resistance and suggest that combinatorial therapies of targeting both EGFR and mechanisms underlying glioma lineage transdifferentiation could ultimately lead to deeper and more durable responses. Significance: This study demonstrates that molecular reprogramming and lineage transdifferentiation underlie anti-EGFR therapy resistance and is clinically relevant to the development of new combinatorial targeting strategies against malignant gliomas carrying aberrant EGFR signaling. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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