Disrupting PHF8-TOPBP1 connection elicits a breast tumor-specific vulnerability to chemotherapeutics


The DNA damage response (DDR) pathway generally protects against genome instability, and defects in DDR have been exploited therapeutically in cancer treatment. We have reported that histone demethylase PHF8 demethylates TOPBP1 K118 mono-methylation (K118me1) to drive the activation of ATR kinase, one of the master regulators of replication stress. However, whether dysregulation of this physiological signalling is involved in tumorigenesis remains unknown. Here, we showed PHF8-promoted TOPBP1 demethylation is clinically associated with breast tumorigenesis and patient survival. Mammary gland tumors from Phf8 knockout mice grow slowly and exhibit higher level of K118me1, lower ATR activity, and increased chromosomal instability. Importantly, we found that disruption of PHF8-TOPBP1 axis suppresses breast tumorigenesis and creates a breast tumor-specific vulnerability to PARP inhibitor (PARPi) and platinum drug. CRISPR/Cas9 mutation modelling of the deleted or truncated mutation of PHF8 in clinical tumor samples demonstrated breast tumor cells expressing the mimetic variants are more vulnerable to PARPi. Together, our study supports the pursuit of PHF8-TOPBP1 signalling pathway as promising avenues for targeted therapies of PHF8-TOPBP1 proficient tumors, and provides proof-of-concept evidence for loss-of-function of PHF8 as a therapeutic indicator of PARPis.