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Membrane protein regulators of melanoma pulmonary colonization identified using a CRISPRa screen and spontaneous metastasis assay in mice

, Victoria Offord, Gemma Turner, Agnes Swiatkowska, Anneliese O Speak, David J Adams
G3 Genes|Genomes|Genetics ; doi:10.1093/g3journal/jkab157

Abstract: Metastasis is the spread of cancer cells to a secondary site within the body, and is the leading cause of death for cancer patients. The lung is a common site of metastasis for many cancer types, including melanoma. Identifying the genes involved in aiding metastasis of melanoma cells to the lungs is critical for the development of better treatments. As the accessibility of cell surface proteins makes them attractive therapeutic targets, we performed a CRISPR activation screen using a library of guide RNAs (gRNAs) targeting the transcription start sites of 2195 membrane protein-encoding genes, to identify genes whose upregulated expression aided pulmonary metastasis. Immunodeficient mice were subcutaneously injected in the flank with murine B16-F0 melanoma cells expressing dCas9 and the membrane protein library gRNAs, and their lungs collected after 14–21 days. Analysis was performed to identify the gRNAs that were enriched in the lungs relative to those present in the cells at the time of administration (day 0). We identified six genes whose increased expression promotes lung metastasis. These genes included several with well-characterized pro-metastatic roles (Fut7, Mgat5, and Pcdh7) that have not previously been linked to melanoma progression, genes linked to tumor progression but that have not previously been described as involved in metastasis (Olfr322 and Olfr441), as well as novel genes (Tmem116). Thus, we have identified genes that, when upregulated in melanoma cells, can aid successful metastasis and colonization of the lung, and therefore may represent novel therapeutic targets to inhibit pulmonary metastasis.
Keywords: mouse / B16-F0 / spontaneous metastasis / lung / melanoma / CRISPR activation / Fut7

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