Titrating CD47 by mismatch CRISPR-interference reveals incomplete repression can eliminate IgG-opsonized tumors but limits induction of antitumor IgG

Phagocytic elimination of solid tumors by innate immune cells seems attractive for immunotherapy, particularly because of the possibilities for acquired immunity. However, the approach remains challenging, with blockade of the macrophage checkpoint CD47 working in immunodeficient mice and against highly immunogenic tumors but not in the clinic where tumors are poorly immunogenic. Even when mouse tumors of poorly immunogenic B16F10 melanoma are opsonized to drive engulfment with a suitable monoclonal antibody (mAb), anti-CD47 blockade remains insufficient. Using both in vitro immuno-tumoroids and in vivo mouse models, we show with CRISPR interference (CRISPRi) that a relatively uniform minimum repression of CD47 by 80% is needed for phagocytosis to dominate net growth when combined with an otherwise ineffective mAb (anti-Tyrp1). Heterogeneity enriches for CD47-high cells, but mice that eliminate tumors generate prophagocytic IgGs that increase in titer with CD47 repression and with tumor accumulation of macrophages, although deeper repression does not improve survival. Given well-known limitations of antibody permeation into solid tumors, our studies clarify benchmarks for CD47 disruption that should be more clinically feasible and safer but just as effective as complete ablation. Additionally, safe but ineffective opsonization in human melanoma trials suggests that combinations with deep repression of CD47 could prove effective and initiate durable immunity.

Confinement plus Myosin-II suppression maximizes heritable loss of chromosomes, as revealed by live-cell ChReporters

The mechanical environment of a cell can have many effects, but whether it impacts the DNA sequence of a cell has remained unexamined. To investigate this, we developed a live-cell method to measure changes in chromosome numbers. We edited constitutive genes with GFP or RFP tags on single alleles and discovered that cells that lose Chromosome reporters (ChReporters) become non-fluorescent. We applied our new tools to confined mitosis and to inhibition of the putative tumor suppressor myosin-II. We quantified compression of mitotic chromatin in vivo and demonstrated that similar compression in vitro resulted in cell death, but also rare and heritable ChReptorter loss. Myosin-II suppression rescued lethal multipolar divisions and maximized ChReporter loss during three-dimensional (3D) compression and two-dimensional (2D) lateral confinement, but not in standard 2D culture. ChReporter loss was associated with chromosome mis-segregation, rather than just the number of divisions, and loss in vitro and in mice was selected against in subsequent 2D cultures. Inhibition of the spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) caused ChReporter loss in 2D culture, as expected, but not during 3D compression, suggesting a SAC perturbation. Thus, ChReporters enable diverse studies of viable genetic changes, and show that confinement and myosin-II affect DNA sequence and mechano-evolution.

Genetic heterogeneity in p53-null leukemia increases transiently with spindle assembly checkpoint inhibition and is not rescued by p53

Chromosome gains or losses often lead to copy number variations (CNV) and loss of heterozygosity (LOH). Both quantities are low in hematologic “liquid” cancers versus solid tumors in data of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) that also shows the fraction of a genome affected by LOH is ~ one-half of that with CNV. Suspension cultures of p53-null THP-1 leukemia-derived cells conform to these trends, despite novel evidence here of genetic heterogeneity and transiently elevated CNV after perturbation. Single-cell DNAseq indeed reveals at least 8 distinct THP-1 aneuploid clones with further intra-clonal variation, suggesting ongoing genetic evolution. Importantly, acute inhibition of the mitotic spindle assembly checkpoint (SAC) produces CNV levels that are typical of high-CNV solid tumors, with subsequent cell death and down-selection to novel CNV. Pan-cancer analyses show p53 inactivation associates with aneuploidy, but leukemias exhibit a weaker trend even though p53 inactivation correlates with poor survival. Overexpression of p53 in THP-1 does not rescue established aneuploidy or LOH but slightly increases cell death under oxidative or confinement stress, and triggers p21, a key p53 target, but without affecting net growth. Our results suggest that factors other than p53 exert stronger pressures against aneuploidy in liquid cancers, and identifying such CNV suppressors could be useful across liquid and solid tumor types.

Small lipid droplets are rigid enough to indent a nucleus, dilute the lamina, and cause rupture

The nucleus in many cell types is a stiff organelle, but fat-filled lipid droplets (FDs) in cytoplasm are seen to indent and displace the nucleus. FDs are phase-separated liquids with a poorly understood interfacial tension γ that determines how FDs interact with other organelles. Here, micron-sized FDs remain spherical as they indent peri-nuclear actomyosin and the nucleus, while causing local dilution of Lamin-B1 independent of Lamin-A,C and sometimes triggering nuclear rupture. Focal accumulation of the cytosolic DNA sensor cGAS at the rupture site is accompanied by sustained mislocalization of DNA repair factors to cytoplasm, increased DNA damage, and delayed cell cycle. Macrophages show FDs and engulfed rigid beads cause similar indentation dilution. Spherical shapes of small FDs indicate a high γ, which we measure for FDs mechanically isolated from fresh adipose tissue as ∼40 mN/m. This value is far higher than that of protein condensates, but typical of oils in water and sufficiently rigid to perturb cell structures including nuclei.

Tension-suppressed degradation of collagen controls tissue stiffness scaling with fibrillar collagen

Extremely soft tissues such as developing hearts or adult brain contain far less collagen than highly stiff adult tissues such as tendons, but cell and molecular mechanisms for such homeostatic differences remain unclear. We hypothesized that cell-generated or exogenous forces combine with tension-suppressed collagen degradation in order to sculpt extracellular matrix (ECM) collagen levels in tissues. For various mature mice tissues and beating embryonic chick hearts, we find collagen-sensitive second harmonic generation (SHG) image intensity scales non-linearly versus tissue stiffness, aligning well with the results from cellularized gels of collagen. Chick hearts beating at ∼5% strain maintain collagen levels until their contractile strain is suppressed by myosin-II inhibition and endogenous matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) then degrade collagens within ∼30-60 minutes – based on SHG and mass spectrometry proteomics. Although tendons composed of oriented collagen fibrils exhibit heterogeneous strain distributions upon deformation, the addition of exogenous MMP or bacterial collagenase suppresses collagen degradation for strains within physiological limits (i.e., up to ∼5-8%). Sequestration of collagen cleavage sites by tissue strain is a likely mechanism because molecular permeation and mobility prove strain-independent whereas artificial collagen cross-links accelerate strain-dependent collagen degradation via collagen molecular unfolding. Tension-suppressed degradation of collagen thus underlies tissue stiffness scaling.

Matrix Elasticity Directs Stem Cell Lineage Specification

Microenvironments appear important in stem cell lineage specification but can be difficult to adequately characterize or control with soft tissues. Naive mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are shown here to specify lineage and commit to phenotypes with extreme sensitivity to tissue-level elasticity. Soft matrices that mimic brain are neurogenic, stiffer matrices that mimic muscle are myogenic, and comparatively rigid matrices that mimic collagenous bone prove osteogenic. During the initial week in culture, reprogramming of these lineages is possible with addition of soluble induction factors, but after several weeks in culture, the cells commit to the lineage specified by matrix elasticity, consistent with the elasticity-insensitive commitment of differentiated cell types. Inhibition of nonmuscle myosin II blocks all elasticity-directed lineage specification–without strongly perturbing many other aspects of cell function and shape. The results have significant implications for understanding physical effects of the in vivo microenvironment and also for therapeutic uses of stem cells.