A CRISPR/Cas9-Engineered ARID1A-Deficient Human Gastric Cancer Organoid Model Reveals Essential and Nonessential Modes of Oncogenic Transformation

Cancer Discov. 2021 Jun;11(6):1562-1581. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-20-1109. Epub 2021 Jan 15.


Mutations in ARID1A rank among the most common molecular aberrations in human cancer. However, oncogenic consequences of ARID1A mutation in human cells remain poorly defined due to lack of forward genetic models. Here, CRISPR/Cas9-mediated ARID1A knockout (KO) in primary TP53-/- human gastric organoids induced morphologic dysplasia, tumorigenicity, and mucinous differentiation. Genetic WNT/β-catenin activation rescued mucinous differentiation, but not hyperproliferation, suggesting alternative pathways of ARID1A KO-mediated transformation. ARID1A mutation induced transcriptional regulatory modules characteristic of microsatellite instability and Epstein-Barr virus-associated subtype human gastric cancer, including FOXM1-associated mitotic genes and BIRC5/survivin. Convergently, high-throughput compound screening indicated selective vulnerability of ARID1A-deficient organoids to inhibition of BIRC5/survivin, functionally implicating this pathway as an essential mediator of ARID1A KO-dependent early-stage gastric tumorigenesis. Overall, we define distinct pathways downstream of oncogenic ARID1A mutation, with nonessential WNT-inhibited mucinous differentiation in parallel with essential transcriptional FOXM1/BIRC5-stimulated proliferation, illustrating the general utility of organoid-based forward genetic cancer analysis in human cells. SIGNIFICANCE: We establish the first human forward genetic modeling of a commonly mutated tumor suppressor gene, ARID1A. Our study integrates diverse modalities including CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing, organoid culture, systems biology, and small-molecule screening to derive novel insights into early transformation mechanisms of ARID1A-deficient gastric cancers.See related commentary by Zafra and Dow, p. 1327.This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 1307.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CRISPR-Cas Systems*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Mutation
  • Stomach Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*


  • ARID1A protein, human
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Transcription Factors