High-resolution molecular atlas of a lung tumor in 3D


  • Pentimalli TM, Schallenberg S, León-Periñán D,
  • Legnini I.,
  • Theurillat I, Thomas G, Boltengagen A, Fritzsche S, Nimo J, Ruff L, Dernbach G, Jurmeister P, Murphy S, Gregory MT, Liang Y, Cordenonsi M, Piccolo S, Coscia F, Woehler A, Karaiskos N, Klauschen F, Rajewsky N


Cells live and interact in three-dimensional (3D) cellular neighborhoods. However, histology and spatial omics methods mostly focus on 2D tissue sections. Here we present a 3D spatial atlas of a routine clinical sample, an aggressive human lung carcinoma, by combining in situ quantification of 960 cancer-related genes across ∼340,000 cells with measurements of tissue-mechanical components. 3D cellular neighborhoods subdivided the tumor microenvironment into tumor, stromal, and immune multicellular niches. Interestingly, pseudotime analysis suggested that pro-invasive epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), detected in stroma-infiltrating tumor cells, already occurred in one region at the tumor surface. There, myofibroblasts and macrophages specifically co-localized with pre-invasive tumor cells and their multicellular molecular signature identified patients with shorter survival. Moreover, cytotoxic T-cells did not infiltrate this niche but colocalized with inhibitory dendritic and regulatory T cells. Importantly, systematic scoring of cell-cell interactions in 3D neighborhoods highlighted niche-specific signaling networks accompanying tumor invasion and immune escape. Compared to 2D, 3D neighborhoods improved the characterization of immune niches by identifying dendritic niches, capturing the 3D extension of T-cell niches and boosting the quantification of niche-specific cell-cell interactions, including druggable immune checkpoints. We believe that 3D communication analyses can improve the design of clinical studies investigating personalized, combination immuno-oncology therapies.

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