Somatic Cell Fusions Reveal Extensive Heterogeneity in Basal-like Breast Cancer

Ying Su, Ashim Subedee, Noga Bloushtain-Qimron, Virginia Savova, Marcin Krzystanek, Lewyn Li, Andriy Marusyk, Doris P. Tabassum, Alexander Zak, Mary Jo Flacker, Mei Li, Jessica J. Lin, Saraswati Sukumar, Hiromu Suzuki, Henry Long, Zoltan Szallasi, Alexander Gimelbrant, Reo Maruyama, Kornelia Polyak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Basal-like and luminal breast tumors have distinct clinical behavior and molecular profiles, yet the underlying mechanisms are poorly defined. To interrogate processes that determine these distinct phenotypes and their inheritance pattern, we generated somatic cell fusions and performed integrated genetic and epigenetic (DNA methylation and chromatin) profiling. We found that the basal-like trait is generally dominant and is largely defined by epigenetic repression of luminal transcription factors. Definition of super-enhancers highlighted a core program common in luminal cells but a high degree of heterogeneity in basal-like breast cancers that correlates with clinical outcome. We also found that protein extracts of basal-like cells are sufficient to induce a luminal-to-basal phenotypic switch, implying a trigger of basal-like autoregulatory circuits. We determined that KDM6A might be required for luminal-basal fusions, and we identified EN1, TBX18, and TCF4 as candidate transcriptional regulators of the luminal-to-basal switch. Our findings highlight the remarkable epigenetic plasticity of breast cancer cells. Luminal and basal-like breast tumors are clinically distinct. Using somatic cell fusions, Su et al. demonstrate the general dominance of the basal-like phenotype. Epigenomic profiling of parental luminal and basal-like cells and heterofusions define common luminal programs but a high degree of heterogeneity in basal-like cancer cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1549-1563
Number of pages15
JournalCell Reports
Issue number10
StatePublished - Jun 16 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Somatic Cell Fusions Reveal Extensive Heterogeneity in Basal-like Breast Cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this