Regulation of developmental hierarchy in Drosophila neural stem cell tumors by COMPASS and Polycomb complexes

Sci Adv. 2022 May 13;8(19):eabi4529. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abi4529. Epub 2022 May 11.


COMPASS and Polycomb complexes are antagonistic chromatin complexes that are frequently inactivated in cancers, but how these events affect the cellular hierarchy, composition, and growth of tumors is unclear. These characteristics can be systematically investigated in Drosophila neuroblast tumors in which cooption of temporal patterning induces a developmental hierarchy that confers cancer stem cell (CSC) properties to a subset of neuroblasts retaining an early larval temporal identity. Here, using single-cell transcriptomics, we reveal that the trithorax/MLL1/2-COMPASS-like complex guides the developmental trajectory at the top of the tumor hierarchy. Consequently, trithorax knockdown drives larval-to-embryonic temporal reversion and the marked expansion of CSCs that remain locked in a spectrum of early temporal states. Unexpectedly, this phenotype is amplified by concomitant inactivation of Polycomb repressive complex 2 genes, unleashing tumor growth. This study illustrates how inactivation of specific COMPASS and Polycomb complexes cooperates to impair tumor hierarchies, inducing CSC plasticity, heterogeneity, and expansion.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drosophila / genetics
  • Drosophila Proteins* / metabolism
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Larva / genetics
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Neural Stem Cells* / metabolism
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins / genetics


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • Polycomb-Group Proteins