Members of the KDM5 histone H3 lysine 4 demethylase family are associated with therapeutic resistance, including endocrine resistance in breast cancer, but the underlying mechanism is poorly defined. Here we show that genetic deletion of KDM5A/B or inhibition of KDM5 activity increases sensitivity to anti-estrogens by modulating estrogen receptor (ER) signaling and by decreasing cellular transcriptomic heterogeneity. Higher KDM5B expression levels are associated with higher transcriptomic heterogeneity and poor prognosis in ER+ breast tumors. Single-cell RNA sequencing, cellular barcoding, and mathematical modeling demonstrate that endocrine resistance is due to selection for pre-existing genetically distinct cells, while KDM5 inhibitor resistance is acquired. Our findings highlight the importance of cellular phenotypic heterogeneity in therapeutic resistance and identify KDM5A/B as key regulators of this process.
Keywords: KDM5B; acquired resistance; barcoding; cellular heterogeneity; endocrine resistance; epigenetic; pre-existing resistance; single-cell RNA-seq; subclonal fraction; transcriptomic heterogeneity.
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