Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitors (PARPIs) kill cancer cells by trapping PARP1 and PARP2. Talazoparib, the most potent PARPI inhibitor (PARPI), exhibits remarkable selectivity among the NCI-60 cancer cell lines beyond BRCA inactivation. Our genomic analyses reveal high correlation between response to talazoparib and Schlafen 11 (SLFN11) expression. Causality was established in four isogenic SLFN11-positive and -negative cell lines and extended to olaparib. Response to the talazoparib-temozolomide combination was also driven by SLFN11 and validated in 36 small cell lung cancer cell lines, and in xenograft models. Resistance in SLFN11-deficient cells was caused neither by impaired drug penetration nor by activation of homologous recombination. Rather, SLFN11 induced irreversible and lethal replication inhibition, which was independent of ATR-mediated S-phase checkpoint. The resistance to PARPIs by SLFN11 inactivation was overcome by ATR inhibition, mechanistically because SLFN11-deficient cells solely rely on ATR activation for their survival under PARPI treatment. Our study reveals that SLFN11 inactivation, which is common (~45%) in cancer cells, is a novel and dominant resistance determinant to PARPIs.
Keywords: ATR; BRCA; PARP inhibitor; PARP-trapping; homologous recombination.