Single-cell DNA and RNA sequencing reveals the dynamics of intra-tumor heterogeneity in a colorectal cancer model

Hanako Ono, Yasuhito Arai, Eisaku Furukawa, Daichi Narushima, Tetsuya Matsuura, Hiromi Nakamura, Daisuke Shiokawa, Momoko Nagai, Toshio Imai, Koshi Mimori, Koji Okamoto, Yoshitaka Hippo, Tatsuhiro Shibata, Mamoru Kato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Intra-tumor heterogeneity (ITH) encompasses cellular differences in tumors and is related to clinical outcomes such as drug resistance. However, little is known about the dynamics of ITH, owing to the lack of time-series analysis at the single-cell level. Mouse models that recapitulate cancer development are useful for controlled serial time sampling. Results: We performed single-cell exome and transcriptome sequencing of 200 cells to investigate how ITH is generated in a mouse colorectal cancer model. In the model, a single normal intestinal cell is grown into organoids that mimic the intestinal crypt structure. Upon RNAi-mediated downregulation of a tumor suppressor gene APC, the transduced organoids were serially transplanted into mice to allow exposure to in vivo microenvironments, which play relevant roles in cancer development. The ITH of the transcriptome increased after the transplantation, while that of the exome decreased. Mutations generated during organoid culture did not greatly change at the bulk-cell level upon the transplantation. The RNA ITH increase was due to the emergence of new transcriptional subpopulations. In contrast to the initial cells expressing mesenchymal-marker genes, new subpopulations repressed these genes after the transplantation. Analyses of colorectal cancer data from The Cancer Genome Atlas revealed a high proportion of metastatic cases in human subjects with expression patterns similar to the new cell subpopulations in mouse. These results suggest that the birth of transcriptional subpopulations may be a key for adaptation to drastic micro-environmental changes when cancer cells have sufficient genetic alterations at later tumor stages. Conclusions: This study revealed an evolutionary dynamics of single-cell RNA and DNA heterogeneity in tumor progression, giving insights into the mesenchymal-epithelial transformation of tumor cells at metastasis in colorectal cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number207
JournalBMC biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Structural Biology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Plant Science
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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