Rajurkar M, Parikh AR, Solovyov A, You E, Kulkarni AS, Chu C, Xu KH, Jaicks C, Taylor MS, Wu C, Alexander KA, Good CR, Szabolcs A, Gerstberger S, Tran AV, Xu N, Ebright RY, Van Seventer EE, Vo KD, Tai EC, Lu C, Joseph-Chazan J, Raabe MJ, Nieman LT, Desai N, Arora KS, Ligorio M, Thapar V, Cohen L, Garden PM, Senussi Y, Zheng H, Allen JN, Blaszkowsky LS, Clark JW, Goyal L, Wo JY, Ryan DP, Corcoran RB, Deshpande V, Rivera MN, Aryee MJ, Hong TS, Berger SL, Walt DR, Burns KH, Park PJ, Greenbaum BD, Ting DT. Reverse Transcriptase Inhibition Disrupts Repeat Element Life Cycle in Colorectal Cancer. Cancer Discov 2022;Abstract
Altered RNA expression of repetitive sequences and retrotransposition are frequently seen in colorectal cancer (CRC) implicating a functional importance of repeat activity in cancer progression. We show the nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor 3TC targets activities of these repeat elements in CRC pre-clinical models with a preferential effect in P53 mutant cell lines linked with direct binding of P53 to repeat elements. We translate these findings to a human Phase 2 trial of single agent 3TC treatment in metastatic CRC with demonstration of clinical benefit in 9 of 32 patients. Analysis of 3TC effects on CRC tumorspheres demonstrates accumulation of immunogenic RNA:DNA hybrids linked with induction of interferon response genes and DNA damage response. Epigenetic and DNA damaging agents induce repeat RNAs and have enhanced cytotoxicity with 3TC. These findings identify a vulnerability in CRC by targeting the viral mimicry of repeat elements.
Aberrant transcription of the pericentromeric human satellite II (HSATII) repeat is present in a wide variety of epithelial cancers. In deriving experimental systems to study its deregulation, we observed that HSATII expression is induced in colon cancer cells cultured as xenografts or under nonadherent conditions in vitro, but it is rapidly lost in standard 2D cultures. Unexpectedly, physiological induction of endogenous HSATII RNA, as well as introduction of synthetic HSATII transcripts, generated cDNA intermediates in the form of DNA/RNA hybrids. Single molecule sequencing of tumor xenografts showed that HSATII RNA-derived DNA (rdDNA) molecules are stably incorporated within pericentromeric loci. Suppression of RT activity using small molecule inhibitors reduced HSATII copy gain. Analysis of whole-genome sequencing data revealed that HSATII copy number gain is a common feature in primary human colon tumors and is associated with a lower overall survival. Together, our observations suggest that cancer-associated derepression of specific repetitive sequences can promote their RNA-driven genomic expansion, with potential implications on pericentromeric architecture.