Tissue regeneration relies on resident stem cells (SCs), whose activity and lineage choices are influenced by the microenvironment. Exploiting the synchronized, cyclical bouts of tissue regeneration in hair follicles (HFs), we investigate how microenvironment dynamics shape the emergence of stem cell lineages. Employing epigenetic and ChIP-seq profiling, we uncover how signal-dependent transcription factors couple spatiotemporal cues to chromatin dynamics, thereby choreographing stem cell lineages. Using enhancer-driven reporters, mutagenesis, and genetics, we show that simultaneous BMP-inhibitory and WNT signals set the stage for lineage choices by establishing chromatin platforms permissive for diversification. Mechanistically, when binding of BMP effector pSMAD1 is relieved, enhancers driving HF-stem cell master regulators are silenced. Concomitantly, multipotent, lineage-fated enhancers silent in HF-stem cells become activated by exchanging WNT effectors TCF3/4 for LEF1. Throughout regeneration, lineage enhancers continue reliance upon LEF1 but then achieve specificity by accommodating additional incoming signaling effectors. Barriers to progenitor plasticity increase when diverse, signal-sensitive transcription factors shape LEF1-regulated enhancer dynamics.
Functionally relevant markers of glioblastoma stem-like cells (GSCs) have potential for therapeutic targeting to treat this aggressive disease. Here we used generation and screening of thousands of monoclonal antibodies to search for receptors and signaling pathways preferentially enriched in GSCs. We identified integrin α7 (ITGA7) as a major laminin receptor in GSCs and in primary high-grade glioma specimens. Analyses of mRNA profiles in comprehensive datasets revealed that high ITGA7 expression negatively correlated with survival of patients with both low- and high-grade glioma. In vitro and in vivo analyses showed that ITGA7 plays a key functional role in growth and invasiveness of GSCs. We also found that targeting of ITGA7 by RNAi or blocking mAbs impaired laminin-induced signaling, and it led to a significant delay in tumor engraftment plus a strong reduction in tumor size and invasion. Our data, therefore, highlight ITGA7 as a glioblastoma biomarker and candidate therapeutic target.
Squamous cell carcinomas occurring at transition zones are highly malignant tumors with poor prognosis. The identity of the cell population and the signaling pathways involved in the progression of transition zone squamous cell carcinoma are poorly understood, hence representing limited options for targeted therapies. Here, we identify a highly tumorigenic cancer stem cell population in a mouse model of transitional epithelial carcinoma and uncover a novel mechanism by which loss of TGFβ receptor II (Tgfbr2) mediates invasion and metastasis through de-repression of ELMO1, a RAC-activating guanine exchange factor, specifically in cancer stem cells of transition zone tumors. We identify ELMO1 as a novel target of TGFβ signaling and show that restoration of Tgfbr2 results in a complete block of ELMO1 in vivo. Knocking down Elmo1 impairs metastasis of carcinoma cells to the lung, thereby providing insights into the mechanisms of progression of Tgfbr2-deficient invasive transition zone squamous cell carcinoma.