Gene duplication events can drive evolution by providing genetic material for new gene functions, and create opportunities for diverse developmental strategies to emerge between species. To study the contribution of duplicated genes to human early development, we examined the evolution and function of NANOGP1, a tandem duplicate of the transcription factor NANOG. We found that NANOGP1 and NANOG have overlapping but distinct expression profiles, with high NANOGP1 expression restricted to early epiblast cells and naïve-state pluripotent stem cells. Sequence analysis and epitope-tagging revealed that NANOGP1 is protein-coding with an intact homeobox domain. The duplication that created NANOGP1 occurred earlier in primate evolution than previously thought and has been retained only in great apes, whereas Old World monkeys have disabled the gene in different ways including homeodomain point mutations. NANOGP1 is a strong inducer of naïve pluripotency; however, unlike NANOG, it is not required to maintain the undifferentiated status of human naïve pluripotent cells. By retaining expression, sequence and partial functional conservation with its ancestral copy, NANOGP1 exemplifies how gene duplication and subfunctionalisation can contribute to transcription factor activity in human pluripotency and development.
Redundancy and compensation provide robustness to biological systems but may contribute to therapy resistance. Both tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) and Foxp3+ regulatory T (Treg) cells promote tumor progression by limiting antitumor immunity. Here we show that genetic ablation of CSF1 in colorectal cancer cells reduces the influx of immunosuppressive CSF1R+ TAMs within tumors. This reduction in CSF1-dependent TAMs resulted in increased CD8+ T cell attack on tumors, but its effect on tumor growth was limited by a compensatory increase in Foxp3+ Treg cells. Similarly, disruption of Treg cell activity through their experimental ablation produced moderate effects on tumor growth and was associated with elevated numbers of CSF1R+ TAMs. Importantly, codepletion of CSF1R+ TAMs and Foxp3+ Treg cells resulted in an increased influx of CD8+ T cells, augmentation of their function, and a synergistic reduction in tumor growth. Further, inhibition of Treg cell activity either through systemic pharmacological blockade of PI3Kδ, or its genetic inactivation within Foxp3+ Treg cells, sensitized previously unresponsive solid tumors to CSF1R+ TAM depletion and enhanced the effect of CSF1R blockade. These findings identify CSF1R+ TAMs and PI3Kδ-driven Foxp3+ Treg cells as the dominant compensatory cellular components of the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment, with implications for the design of combinatorial immunotherapies.
The PI3K signaling pathway regulates cell growth and movement and is heavily mutated in cancer. Class I PI3Ks synthesize the lipid messenger PI(3,4,5)P3. PI(3,4,5)P3 can be dephosphorylated by 3- or 5-phosphatases, the latter producing PI(3,4)P2. The PTEN tumor suppressor is thought to function primarily as a PI(3,4,5)P3 3-phosphatase, limiting activation of this pathway. Here we show that PTEN also functions as a PI(3,4)P2 3-phosphatase, both in vitro and in vivo. PTEN is a major PI(3,4)P2 phosphatase in Mcf10a cytosol, and loss of PTEN and INPP4B, a known PI(3,4)P2 4-phosphatase, leads to synergistic accumulation of PI(3,4)P2, which correlated with increased invadopodia in epidermal growth factor (EGF)-stimulated cells. PTEN deletion increased PI(3,4)P2 levels in a mouse model of prostate cancer, and it inversely correlated with PI(3,4)P2 levels across several EGF-stimulated prostate and breast cancer lines. These results point to a role for PI(3,4)P2 in the phenotype caused by loss-of-function mutations or deletions in PTEN.