Functional Genetic Screen Identifies ITPR3/Calcium/RELB Axis as a Driver of Colorectal Cancer Metastatic Liver Colonization


Metastatic colonization is the primary cause of death from colorectal cancer (CRC). We employed genome-scale in~vivo short hairpin RNA (shRNA) screening and validation to identify 26 promoters of CRC liver colonization. Among these genes, we identified a cluster that contains multiple targetable genes, including ITPR3, which promoted liver-metastatic colonization and elicited similar downstream gene expression programs. ITPR3 is a caffeine-sensitive inositol 1,4,5-triphosphate (IP3) receptor that releases calcium from the endoplasmic reticulum and enhanced metastatic colonization by inducing expression of RELB, a transcription factor that is associated with non-canonical NF-$ąppa$B signaling. Genetic, cell biological, pharmacologic, and clinical association studies revealed that ITPR3 and RELB drive CRC colony formation by promoting cell survival upon substratum detachment or hypoxic exposure. RELB was sufficient to drive colonization downstream of ITPR3. Our findings implicate the ITPR3/calcium/RELB axis in CRC metastatic colony formation and uncover multiple clinico-pathologically associated targetable proteins as drivers of CRC metastatic colonization.

Developmental Cell