Dissecting the heterogeneity and tumorigenesis of BRCA1 deficient mammary tumors via single cell RNA sequencing

Theranostics. 2021 Oct 25;11(20):9967-9987. doi: 10.7150/thno.63995. eCollection 2021.


Background: BRCA1 plays critical roles in mammary gland development and mammary tumorigenesis. And loss of BRCA1 induces mammary tumors in a stochastic manner. These tumors present great heterogeneity at both intertumor and intratumor levels. Methods: To comprehensively elucidate the heterogeneity of BRCA1 deficient mammary tumors and the underlying mechanisms for tumor initiation and progression, we conducted bulk and single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) on both mammary gland cells and mammary tumor cells isolated from Brca1 knockout mice. Results: We found the BRCA1 deficient tumors could be classified into four subtypes with distinct molecular features and different sensitivities to anti-cancer drugs at the intertumor level. Whereas within the tumors, heterogeneous subgroups were classified mainly due to the different activities of cell proliferation, DNA damage response/repair and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Besides, we reconstructed the BRCA1 related mammary tumorigenesis to uncover the transcriptomes alterations during this process via pseudo-temporal analysis of the scRNA-seq data. Furthermore, from candidate markers for BRCA1 mutant tumors, we discovered and validated one oncogene Mrc2, whose loss could reduce mammary tumor growth in vitro and in vivo. Conclusion: Our study provides a useful resource for better understanding of mammary tumorigenesis induced by BRCA1 deficiency.

Keywords: Brca1/BRCA1; Mrc2; mammary tumor; single cell RNA-seq; tumor heterogeneity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't