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Sequential oncogenic mutations influence cell competition

Kohashi, K;Mori, Y;Narumi, R;Kozawa, K;Kamasaki, T;Ishikawa, S;Kajita, M;Kobayashi, R;Tamori, Y;Fujita, Y;

At the initial stage of carcinogenesis, newly emerging transformed cells are often eliminated from epithelial layers via cell competition with the surrounding normal cells. For instance, when surrounded by normal cells, oncoprotein RasV12-transformed cells are extruded into the apical lumen of epithelia. During cancer development, multiple oncogenic mutations accumulate within epithelial tissues. However, it remains elusive whether and how cell competition is also involved in this process. In this study, using a mammalian cell culture model system, we have investigated what happens upon the consecutive mutations of Ras and tumor suppressor protein Scribble. When Ras mutation occurs under the Scribble-knockdown background, apical extrusion of Scribble/Ras double-mutant cells is strongly diminished. In addition, at the boundary with Scribble/Ras cells, Scribble-knockdown cells frequently undergo apoptosis and are actively engulfed by the neighboring Scribble/Ras cells. The comparable apoptosis and engulfment phenotypes are also observed in Drosophila epithelial tissues between Scribble/Ras double-mutant and Scribble single-mutant cells. Furthermore, mitochondrial membrane potential is enhanced in Scribble/Ras cells, causing the increased mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS). Suppression of mitochondrial membrane potential or ROS production diminishes apoptosis and engulfment of the surrounding Scribble-knockdown cells, indicating that mitochondrial metabolism plays a key role in the competitive interaction between double- and single-mutant cells. Moreover, mTOR (mechanistic target of rapamycin kinase) acts downstream of these processes. These results imply that sequential oncogenic mutations can profoundly influence cell competition, a transition from loser to winner. Further studies would open new avenues for cell competition-based cancer treatment, thereby blocking clonal expansion of more malignant populations within tumors.