c-FOS drives reversible basal to squamous cell carcinoma transition. Cell reports Kuonen, F., Li, N. Y., Haensel, D., Patel, T., Gaddam, S., Yerly, L., Rieger, K., Aasi, S., Oro, A. E. 2021; 37 (1): 109774


While squamous transdifferentiation within subpopulations of adenocarcinomas represents an important drug resistance problem, its underlying mechanism remains poorly understood. Here, using surface markers of resistant basal cell carcinomas (BCCs) and patient single-cell and bulk transcriptomic data, we uncover the dynamic roadmap of basal to squamous cell carcinoma transition (BST). Experimentally induced BST identifies activator protein 1 (AP-1) family members in regulating tumor plasticity, and we show that c-FOS plays a central role in BST by regulating the accessibility of distinct AP-1 regulatory elements. Remarkably, despite prominent changes in cell morphology and BST marker expression, we show using inducible model systems that c-FOS-mediated BST demonstrates reversibility. Blocking EGFR pathway activation after c-FOS induction partially reverts BST in vitro and prevents BST features in both mouse models and human tumors. Thus, by identifying the molecular basis of BST, our work reveals a therapeutic opportunity targeting plasticity as a mechanism of tumor resistance.

View details for DOI 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109774

View details for PubMedID 34610301