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Mar 2020 Cancer research

A feed-forward mechanosignaling loop confers resistance to therapies targeting the MAPK pathway in BRAF-mutant melanoma.


Girard CA, Lecacheur M, Ben Jouira R, Berestjuk I, Diazzi S, Prod'homme V, Mallavialle A, Larbret F, Gesson M, Schaub S, Pisano S, Audebert S, Mari B, Gaggioli C, Leucci E, Marine JC, Deckert M, Tartare-Deckert S


Aberrant extracellular matrix (ECM) deposition and stiffening is a physical hallmark of several solid cancers and is associated with therapy failure. BRAF-mutant melanomas treated with BRAF and MEK inhibitors almost invariably develop resistance that is frequently associated with transcriptional reprogramming and a de-differentiated cell state. Melanoma cells secrete their own ECM proteins, an event that is promoted by oncogenic BRAF inhibition. Yet, the contribution of cancer cell-derived ECM and tumor mechanics to drug adaptation and therapy resistance remains poorly understood. Here, we show that melanoma cells can adapt to targeted therapies through a mechanosignaling loop involving the autocrine remodeling of a drug-protective ECM. Analyses revealed that therapy resistant cells associated with a mesenchymal de-differentiated state displayed elevated responsiveness to collagen stiffening and force-mediated ECM remodeling through activation of actin-dependent mechanosensors Yes-associated protein (YAP) and Myocardin-related transcription factor (MRTF). Short-term inhibition of MAPK pathway also induced mechanosignaling associated with deposition and remodeling of an aligned fibrillar matrix. This provided a favored ECM reorganization that promoted tolerance to BRAF inhibition in a YAP and MRTF-dependent manner. Matrix remodeling and tumor stiffening were also observed in vivo upon exposure of BRAF-mutant melanoma cell lines or patient-derived xenograft models to MAPK pathway inhibition. Importantly, pharmacological targeting of YAP reversed treatment-induced excessive collagen deposition, leading to enhancement of BRAF inhibitor efficacy. We conclude that MAPK pathway targeting therapies mechanically reprogram melanoma cells to confer a drug-protective matrix environment. Preventing melanoma cell mechanical reprogramming might be a promising therapeutic strategy for patients on targeted therapies.

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