Disrupting cellular memory to overcome drug resistance

Guillaume Harmange, Raúl A.Reyes Hueros, Dylan L. Schaff, Benjamin Emert, Michael Saint-Antoine, Laura C. Kim, Zijian Niu, Shivani Nellore, Mitchell E. Fane, Gretchen M. Alicea, Ashani T. Weeraratna, M. Celeste Simon, Abhyudai Singh, Sydney M. Shaffer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Gene expression states persist for varying lengths of time at the single-cell level, a phenomenon known as gene expression memory. When cells switch states, losing memory of their prior state, this transition can occur in the absence of genetic changes. However, we lack robust methods to find regulators of memory or track state switching. Here, we develop a lineage tracing-based technique to quantify memory and identify cells that switch states. Applied to melanoma cells without therapy, we quantify long-lived fluctuations in gene expression that are predictive of later resistance to targeted therapy. We also identify the PI3K and TGF-β pathways as state switching modulators. We propose a pretreatment model, first applying a PI3K inhibitor to modulate gene expression states, then applying targeted therapy, which leads to less resistance than targeted therapy alone. Together, we present a method for finding modulators of gene expression memory and their associated cell fates.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7130
Pages (from-to)7130
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 6 2023


  • Cell Differentiation/genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta


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