β-catenin/CBP activation of mTORC1 signaling promotes partial epithelial-mesenchymal states in head and neck cancer

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Abstract

Head and neck cancers, which include oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) as a major subsite, exhibit cellular plasticity that includes features of an epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), referred to as partial-EMT (p-EMT). To identify molecular mechanisms contributing to OSCC plasticity, we performed a multiphase analysis of single cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq) data from human OSCC. This included a multiresolution characterization of cancer cell subgroups to identify pathways and cell states that are heterogeneously represented, followed by casual inference analysis to elucidate activating and inhibitory relationships between these pathways and cell states. This approach revealed signaling networks associated with hierarchical cell state transitions, which notably included an association between β-catenin-driven CREB-binding protein (CBP) activity and mTORC1 signaling. This network was associated with subpopulations of cancer cells that were enriched for markers of the p-EMT state and poor patient survival. Functional analyses revealed that β-catenin/CBP induced mTORC1 activity in part through the transcriptional regulation of a raptor-interacting protein, chaperonin containing TCP1 subunit 5 (CCT5). Inhibition of β-catenin-CBP activity through the use of the orally active small molecule, E7386, reduced the expression of CCT5 and mTORC1 activity in vitro, and inhibited p-EMT-associated markers and tumor development in a murine model of OSCC. Our study highlights the use of multiresolution network analyses of scRNAseq data to identify targetable signals for therapeutic benefit, thus defining an underappreciated association between β-catenin/CBP and mTORC1 signaling in head and neck cancer plasticity.

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Reed, E. R., Jankowski, S. A., Spinella, A. J., Noonan, V., Haddad, R., Nomoto, K., … Monti, S. (2023). β-catenin/CBP activation of mTORC1 signaling promotes partial epithelial-mesenchymal states in head and neck cancer. Translational Research, 260, 46–60. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.trsl.2023.05.007

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