Journal article

Overexpression of the human antigen R suppresses the immediate paradoxical proliferation of melanoma cell subpopulations in response to suboptimal BRAF inhibition

Tumor plasticity and the heterogeneous response of melanoma cells to targeted therapies are major limits for the long-term efficacy of this line of therapy. Targeting tumor plasticity is theoretically possible through the modulation of the expression of RNA-binding proteins which can affect many different compensatory mechanisms of the adaptive response of malignant cells to targeted therapies. Human antigen R (HuR) is a modulator of gene expression and a transacting factor in the mRNA-processing machinery used in the cell stress response, and is a potential target for reducing tumor plasticity. In this experiment, we exploit the inherent heterogeneous response of the A375 melanoma line to suboptimal BRAF inhibition as a model of immediate adaptive response. We first observe that HuR overexpression can prevent the heterogeneous response and thus the immediate paradoxical proliferation induced by low-doses vemurafenib treatment. We then use single-cell mass cytometry to characterize subpopulations, including those that paradoxically proliferate, based on their proliferation rate and the expression patterns of markers involved in the reversible adaptive resistance to BRAF inhibition and/or recognized as HuR targets involved in cell cycle regulation. Under suboptimal BRAF inhibition, HuR overexpression affects these subpopulations and their expression pattern with contrasting responses depending on their proliferation rate: faster-proliferating vemurafenib-sensitive or -resistant subpopulations showed higher death tendency and reduced size, and slower-proliferating subpopulations showed an attenuated resistant expression response and their paradoxical proliferation was inhibited. These observations pave the way to new therapeutic strategies for preventing the heterogeneous response of tumors to targeted therapies.


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