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Deregulation of ribosomal protein expression and translation promotes breast cancer metastasis

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Science  06 Feb 2020:
eaay0939
DOI: 10.1126/science.aay0939

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Abstract

Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are shed into the bloodstream from primary tumors, but only a small subset generates metastases. We conducted an in vivo genome-wide CRISPR activation screen in breast cancer patient-derived CTCs to identify genes that promote their distant metastasis in mice. Genes coding for ribosomal proteins and regulators of translation were enriched in this screen. Overexpression of RPL15, which encodes a component of the large ribosomal subunit, increased metastatic growth in multiple organs and selectively enhanced translation of other ribosomal proteins and cell cycle regulators. RNA-sequencing of freshly-isolated CTCs from breast cancer patients revealed a subset with strong ribosome and protein synthesis signatures; these CTCs expressed proliferation and epithelial markers and correlated with poor clinical outcome. Therapies targeting this aggressive subset of CTCs may merit exploration as potential suppressors of metastatic progression.

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