Loss of E-Cadherin Leads to Druggable Vulnerabilities in Sphingolipid Metabolism and Vesicle Trafficking

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Cancers (Basel). 2021 Dec 26;14(1):102. doi: 10.3390/cancers14010102.

Loss of E-Cadherin Leads to Druggable Vulnerabilities in Sphingolipid Metabolism and Vesicle Trafficking

Tom Brew, Nicola Bougen-Zhukov, Wilson Mitchell, Lyvianne Decourtye, Emily Schulpen, Yasmin Nouri, Tanis Godwin, Parry Guilford

Cancer Genetics Laboratory, Centre for Translational Cancer Research (Te Aho Matatū), Department of Biochemistry, University of Otago, Dunedin 9016, New Zealand.

Service type: Knock-in mice


Germline inactivating variants of CDH1 are causative of hereditary diffuse gastric cancer (HDGC), a cancer syndrome characterized by an increased risk of both diffuse gastric cancer and lobular breast cancer. Because loss of function mutations are difficult to target therapeutically, we have taken a synthetic lethal approach to identify targetable vulnerabilities in CDH1-null cells. We have previously observed that CDH1-null MCF10A cells exhibit a reduced rate of endocytosis relative to wildtype MCF10A cells. To determine whether this deficiency is associated with wider vulnerabilities in vesicle trafficking, we screened isogenic MCF10A cell lines with known inhibitors of autophagy, endocytosis, and sphingolipid metabolism. Relative to wildtype MCF10A cells, CDH1-/- MCF10A cells showed significantly greater sensitivity to several drugs targeting these processes, including the autophagy inhibitor chloroquine, the endocytosis inhibitors chlorpromazine and PP1, and the sphingosine kinase 1 inhibitor PF-543. Synthetic lethality was confirmed in both gastric and mammary organoid models of CDH1 loss, derived from CD44-Cre/Cdh1fl/fl/tdTomato mice. Collectively, these results suggest that both sphingolipid metabolism and vesicle trafficking represent previously unrecognised druggable vulnerabilities in CDH1-null cells and may lead to the development of new therapies for HDGC.

Keywords: E-cadherin; autophagy; chemoprevention; endocytosis; hereditary diffuse gastric cancer; sphingolipid metabolism; synthetic lethality.

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