Several emerging therapies kill cancer cells primarily by inducing necrosis. As necrosis activates immune cells, potentially, uncovering the molecular drivers of anticancer therapy–induced necrosis could reveal approaches for enhancing immunotherapy efficacy. To identify necrosis-associated genes, we performed a genome-wide CRISPR-Cas9 screen with negative selection against necrosis-inducing preclinical agents BHPI and conducted follow-on experiments with ErSO. The screen identified transient receptor potential melastatin member 4 (TRPM4), a calcium-activated, ATP-inhibited, sodium-selective plasma membrane channel. Cancer cells selected for resistance to BHPI and ErSO exhibited robust TRPM4 downregulation, and TRPM4 reexpression restored sensitivity to ErSO. Notably, TRPM4 knockout (TKO) abolished ErSO-induced regression of breast tumors in mice. Supporting a broad role for TRPM4 in necrosis, knockout of TRPM4 reversed cell death induced by four additional diverse necrosis-inducing cancer therapies. ErSO induced anticipatory unfolded protein response (a-UPR) hyperactivation, long-term necrotic cell death, and release of damage-associated molecular patterns that activated macrophages and increased monocyte migration, all of which was abolished by TKO. Furthermore, loss of TRPM4 suppressed the ErSO-induced increase in cell volume and depletion of ATP. These data suggest that ErSO triggers initial activation of the a-UPR but that it is TRPM4-mediated sodium influx and cell swelling, resulting in osmotic stress, which sustains and propagates lethal a-UPR hyperactivation. Thus, TRPM4 plays a pivotal role in sustaining lethal a-UPR hyperactivation that mediates the anticancer activity of diverse necrosis-inducing therapies.


A genome-wide CRISPR screen reveals a pivotal role for TRPM4 in cell death and immune activation following treatment with diverse necrosis-inducing anticancer therapies, which could facilitate development of necrosis-based cancer immunotherapies.

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