Oncogenic signaling is coupled to colorectal cancer cell differentiation state

Thomas Sell, Christian Klotz, Matthias M Fischer, Rosario Astaburuaga-García, Susanne Krug, Jarno Drost, Hans Clevers, Christine Sers, Markus Morkel, Nils Blüthgen

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Colorectal cancer progression is intrinsically linked to stepwise deregulation of the intestinal differentiation trajectory. In this process, sequential mutations of APC, KRAS, TP53, and SMAD4 enable oncogenic signaling and establish the hallmarks of cancer. Here, we use mass cytometry of isogenic human colon organoids and patient-derived cancer organoids to capture oncogenic signaling, cell phenotypes, and differentiation states in a high-dimensional single-cell map. We define a differentiation axis in all tumor progression states from normal to cancer. Our data show that colorectal cancer driver mutations shape the distribution of cells along the differentiation axis. In this regard, subsequent mutations can have stem cell promoting or restricting effects. Individual nodes of the cancer cell signaling network remain coupled to the differentiation state, regardless of the presence of driver mutations. We use single-cell RNA sequencing to link the (phospho-)protein signaling network to transcriptomic states with biological and clinical relevance. Our work highlights how oncogenes gradually shape signaling and transcriptomes during tumor progression.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 05 Jun 2023


  • Humans
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Colorectal Neoplasms/genetics
  • Intestines
  • Mutation
  • Signal Transduction
  • Oncogenes


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