At Brighton and Sussex Medical School, The University of Sussex
We’re tackling cancer with systems biology, in the beautiful city of Brighton, UK.
Our interdisciplinary approach aims to bring systems biology approaches to the clinic.
to represent cell signaling
to simulate disease
to test predictions
to improve treatments
In healthy cells, pro- and anti-apoptotic BCL2 family and BH3-only proteins are expressed in a delicate equilibrium. In contrast, this homeostasis is frequently perturbed in cancer cells due to the overexpression of anti-apoptotic BCL2 family proteins. Variability in the expression and sequestration of these proteins in Diffuse Large B cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) likely contributes to variability in response to BH3-mimetics. Successful deployment of BH3-mimetics in DLBCL requires reliable predictions of which lymphoma cells will respond. Here we show that a computational systems biology approach enables accurate prediction of the sensitivity of DLBCL cells to BH3-mimetics. We found that fractional killing of DLBCL, can be explained by cell-to-cell variability in the molecular abundances of signaling proteins. Importantly, by combining protein interaction data with a knowledge of genetic lesions in DLBCL cells, our in silico models accurately predict in vitro response to BH3-mimetics. Furthermore, through virtual DLBCL cells we predict synergistic combinations of BH3-mimetics, which we then experimentally validated. These results show that computational systems biology models of apoptotic signaling, when constrained by experimental data, can facilitate the rational assignment of efficacious targeted inhibitors in B cell malignancies, paving the way for development of more personalized approaches to treatment.
Introduction. Improving treatments for Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL) is challenged by the vast heterogeneity of the disease. Nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) is frequently aberrantly activated in DLBCL. Transcriptionally active NF-κB is a dimer containing either RelA, RelB or cRel, but the variability in the composition of NF-κB between and within DLBCL cell populations is not known. Results. Here we describe a new flow cytometry-based analysis technique termed “NF-κB fingerprinting” and demonstrate its applicability to DLBCL cell lines, DLBCL core-needle biopsy samples, and healthy donor blood samples. We find each of these cell populations has a unique NF-κB fingerprint and that widely used cell-of-origin classifications are inadequate to capture NF-κB heterogeneity in DLBCL. Computational modeling predicts that RelA is a key determinant of response to microenvironmental stimuli, and we experimentally identify substantial variability in RelA between and within ABC-DLBCL cell lines. We find that when we incorporate NF-κB fingerprints and mutational information into computational models we can predict how heterogeneous DLBCL cell populations respond to microenvironmental stimuli, and we validate these predictions experimentally. Discussion. Our results show that the composition of NF-κB is highly heterogeneous in DLBCL and predictive of how DLBCL cells will respond to microenvironmental stimuli. We find that commonly occurring mutations in the NF-κB signaling pathway reduce DLBCL’s response to microenvironmental stimuli. NF-κB fingerprinting is a widely applicable analysis technique to quantify NF-κB heterogeneity in B cell malignancies that reveals functionally significant differences in NF-κB composition within and between cell populations.